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We have a wonderful guest post today from Christine Keys! This topic is something I struggle with a bit. I like the idea of teaching Caroline about Santa and having the magic of Christmas... but when I say it out loud, I'm lying not teaching. And I hate that. I never want to lie to my children. And so, we're not going to. We may have fun with the idea of Santa, but we aren't going to act like Santa is real...

Feel uncomfortable about leading your children to believe in something that isn't real? You're not alone. However, I know there are a lot of parents that are stuck. They don't want to lie to their children about the existence of Santa but still want to keep the magic of Christmas alive.

Well, it isn't as difficult as you might think. I should know. We were never brought up to think that Santa was real, but Christmas was (and still is!) the most magical time of the year for me. So, here are some ways to help you get started:

Set Fun Traditions

Whether it's driving around to view Christmas lights, or piling on the couch to watch festive movies, it doesn't really matter. Make some special family traditions and enjoy them (Here's a list of ideas!). Half of the magic of Christmas is being able to do things that you don't do for the rest of the 364 days of the year. Kids love it - I know I did!

Make It A Big Deal

Christmas comes but once a year so live it up! Get out all the decorations, put on the Christmas carols, bake some Christmas treats, and make sure that all the family is together. Children are amazingly in tune with our attitudes and emotions. If you're not exuding the Christmas spirit, then chances are they won't either. Create anticipation with advent calendars and get the children involved with festive crafts and activities.

Play Into The Magic

Now while I don't advocate teaching your children that Santa is real, it doesn't mean that you can't still have fun with the idea of it. Kids have big imaginations. I remember as a child lying in bed at the end of the day and dreaming up crazy imaginary worlds that were full of all the most exciting things.

As children, my siblings and I knew Santa was just a character in a delightful story, but we still put out cookies and milk on Christmas Eve, and my father still joked about Santa coming down the chimney. We knew he didn't exist, but as children, it was fun to pretend that he did.

Children are very gifted at getting lost in their imaginations. We don't need to lie to them in order for them to have a part in a magical fantasy. Set the scene and they will be able to do the rest.

If you feel wrong about letting your children believe Santa is real then you really don't have to worry about stealing away the magic.

Kids are brilliant little creatures that often surpass our expectations. Make Christmas time special and meaningful by doing things together and with love. Your children will be thrilled!

Merry Christmas!

I can't believe Caroline is already 3 years old! I also can't believe it's already the middle of December and I haven't written about it yet!

Caroline has been asking me for MONTHS to make a rainbow cake for her birthday. MONTHS! She is so decisive and never even thinks about changing her mind. Since she also loves Trolls now, I decided to do rainbow Trolls cupcakes.

So first, the cupcakes... I made a simple boxed cake. It was the white cake with party confetti inside so there would be lots of color throughout. Nothing fancy, though, as we like to keep things simple around here!

For the icing, I decided to step outside of my comfort zone a bit. I made cream cheese icing from scratch, and bought this nifty little piping system that does 3 colors at once! Caroline chose orange, pink and purple. It was so easy, and I think they came out great. I needed a bit more icing to make them fuller looking, but I had what I had to work with. We bought Trolls rings to put on top for decoration.

As for her birthday celebration, well it was amazing. My husband's family (Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother and significant others) all came for Thanksgiving and for Caroline's birthday. It was perfect.

Caroline just loves being around family. She talks to them nonstop, plays with everyone and has a blast. Since we had family in town, we didn't do a "friend" party this year, although we aren't big on those anyway.

On the day of her birthday celebration, Caroline woke up early. It was the day before her actual birthday and she was a bit nervous. I explain it in this post, but Caroline was scared that she was going to die on her birthday like her sister did (see post for that full explanation). We talked and talked and got everything explained.

Then, we went downstairs and iced the cupcakes. I was glad I hadn't done it the night before, as it was a nice distraction from the previous conversation, and helped get her excited. We made the icing, she picked out the colors, and we piped it onto the cupcakes together. She then put all of the Trolls rings on as well!

For breakfast, she had a donut with sprinkles!

Her uncles arrived late that morning and we did a nice early celebration before her rest time. She blew her 3 candles out on the first try! Then she got to opening up her presents.

After that was play play play. She played all day long, then had some rest, and played again.

Her favorite thing that day was to play with her stamps (stamps she's had since I think last Christmas). She didn't want to stamp with them, but wanted to play with them. She put them on Bananagrams letters (scrabble letters), and pretended they were skating. All day long.

On her actual birthday, she got to go on a train ride! Her aunt and uncle had gifted her an experience for her birthday... and it was such a fun one! Caroline loves trains, so going on a real train was super fun.

The train was sloooooow (like we could have walked as fast as it was going), but it was a train ride and our 3 year old LOVED it- which is what matters! Santa was on board and sat down with Caroline. She gave a quick smile and said hi, but wouldn't tell him what she wanted for Christmas.

She loved looking out the window and finding power towers, water, tractors and more!

After the train ride, we went into the train museum for some hot chocolate and cookies. So much fun.

In exchange for an honest review on this blog, British Swim School of Central MD has provided my family with free swim lessons. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

As I meet parents that have had their children in the British Swim School program, the talk of instructors always comes up. The reality is that having a good instructor- one that works well with your child, is really key to a successful class.

What's great about British Swim School, is that they get that. They know that they need to hire swim instructors that are going to work well with kids. It's just a part of the job. They need to have good personalities, patience, and creativity.

They take the time to work with new instructors and ease them into the new setting. In fact, Caroline's class is currently with an instructor that's in training. The aquatics director is right there in the water showing the new instructor how things are done first hand.

The care that is taken in training, really shows through.

One of the names that always comes up when talking to other moms, is an instructor named Jared. Moms just rave about him quite honestly. He's great with the kids and very patient. Caroline has not yet had Jared as an instructor, but I've had the pleasure of watching some of his classes that are going on at the same time as hers.

Even as someone that hasn't been in his class, he knows Caroline's name and always greets us with a smile and some conversation. Today, we are continuing on with our interview series. And yes, you guessed right... Jared is our interviewee today.

Before we get to the interview, I wanted to provide a quick update on Caroline's progress at the Seahorse level:

You know those moments... the ones when you KNOW without a doubt that your child can do something, but they just won't do it!? Caroline is in one of those phases right now in a lot of aspects of her life (now that I think about it).

She can totally put her own shoes on- but she refuses to try. I've seen her do it long long ago, however. She could also be getting herself dressed and undressed- if she tried. She's a very stubborn child. She may or may not get that from both me and her daddy.

It's one of those things, though, that if you push it, an all out tantrum ensues. So we usually just leave it alone. I know full well that she won't be going to college unable to pull her own pants up. She'll get around to doing it when she's ready.

That's the thing about Caroline. She doesn't do anything until she feels fully prepared, and completely ready to be able to successfully do something. She waits until that moment to show me that she can do something. In the meantime, she practices. She observes. She learns.

She's doing this same thing in swim class at the moment. I am 100% confident that Caroline knows how to float on her own and do that wonderful starfish she's been learning for many months now. Yet she won't yet take that plunge.

If you ask her how to do a starfish, she can tell you "legs out, arms out, belly up, chin up". When instructor Chase was filling in for Ms. Christine one day, he had her do the starfish all on her own. It was her first time doing this, and she did it extremely well. She listened and probably floated for about 5 seconds.

That was a couple of months ago! Since then, she's not really done it again. But it's not because she doesn't know how. It's because she's being stubborn. As parents we know this. We can tell when our children are just refusing to do something, or if they are not ready.

If you watch her on the pool deck, she's focused. She watches the other children in her class as they take their turns. She knows exactly what to do and how to do it. She's taking it all in. When she's ready, she'll be able to hold her starfish for quite some time!

She's nervous though. So no matter the expectation, the reward, the distraction- she's not quite ready to take that step. And so... we wait and practice and keep her having fun.

Caroline has been at the Seahorse level now since August. She's been practicing the same skills for 4 months now, so I know that when she decides to take that step, she's going to just amaze.

Interview with Jared

How long have you been a swim instructor with BSS?

I've been working at BSS since January of 2017

How did you learn to swim?

The life guard at my neighborhood pool would teach me when there were no guests at the pool. I learned to swim when I was about 6.

Why did you choose to become a swim instructor?

When I was 4 or 5 I almost drowned at a water park.  It is very important to me that all of our students understand what to do if they slip off the edge into water.

What’s the best part of your job?

I think the best part of my job is knowing I'm preventing an accident in advance.

What's the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of this job is seeing so many smiles. You cannot possibly have a bad day when you see all your students coming to class smiling and leaving smiling.

How would you describe your style as a swim instructor?

I'd say I have a very patient and adaptable teaching style. Not every child learns the same way, so you really have to cater to certain needs quickly.

Do you have any advice for parents who are hesitant to put their kids in swim lessons?

To put it simply, don't be! There's nothing more important than knowing that your child knows what to do in the event he/she falls into the pool. Also, seeing their progression is really fun and satisfying.

How do you handle fearful children in class?

I usually handle fearful kids with incentive and games. Kids love games. Sometimes they might not like the water very much. It's usually not water itself, more so the big pool. So having them play with a bucket of water helps. And patience is always key.

How do you make the class engaging for young babies and toddlers?

The parent's enthusiasm is the most vital part. If the baby/toddler sees that mom or dad isn't having fun, they won't have fun.  Emphasizing we all sing together and seeing big smiles from mom and dad is the biggest way to get them involved.

What does a typical work week look like for you?

I work Tuesday through Sunday. I teach classes Tuesday morning,  Wednesday afternoon and Sunday morning. I am also the site ambassador at ACAC on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons. Also Saturday and Sunday mornings. I have a lot of minnow, seahorse and turtle 1 classes.

If you had the chance, what’s the one thing you’d tell all of your student's parents?

First I'd like to thank them for giving our program a chance. Swimming is no small deal. It's incredibly important, so I think the biggest thing I'd emphasize is how grateful I am.

Why would you recommend BSS over another swim program?

I would recommend BSS because we focus on survival skills first. This helps learning how to swim immensely because the child is no longer scared to jump in or push off of the wall. They've been given all the tools they need to take that next step.

What is the Deck Ambassador position?

The Deck Ambassador is the first face you should see welcoming you to class. We answer any questions a student or parent may have. We also make sure classes start and stop in an orderly and timely fashion. More important, we make sure the kids are ready and excited to swim, and that our BSS parents are satisfied with our program. I absolutely love engaging in conversation with the kids and parents before and after class because it makes me more than just a face they see. It makes me a friend and a trustworthy staff member.

Special $15 Credit

If you live in Montgomery County or Frederick County, Maryland, and are interested in signing up for your first lesson, I am really excited to announce that you can receive a $15 credit towards your account just by mentioning my full name: Katrina Villegas! The information for our central Maryland British Swim Schools can all be found at this link. And not to worry if you live elsewhere, there are British Swim Schools ALL over the US!

Other Posts of Interest:

British Swim School- Tadpole class (level 1)

British Swim School- Swimboree  (level 2)

British Swim School- Seahorse (level 3)

Well, it's official- Caroline is 3 years old! At her 3 year old well check, the doctor asked her "What is your favorite thing to do?"

Caroline didn't hesitate, and answered: "Read books."

That is such a true statement. Caroline just loves her books. She honestly has so many books, that we really haven't gotten any new ones lately. She naturally rotates which ones she likes to call her "favorites". They all eventually make the list, though!

We have these 5 minute stories (Peppa Pig), and I plan to add the Paw Patrol book, as well as the Daniel Tiger book to her gift list.

She's also really loving her leapfrog reader system and her new Paw Patrol Book to accompany it!

She's been very consistent in her TV show and character likes:

1. Daniel Tiger

2. Dinosaur Train

3. Paw Patrol (newly added as of Thanksgiving)

4. Trolls (she loves the movie and playing with the characters/figures)

5. Sesame Street (rarely watches the show, but really enjoys the characters)

All of these shows have great content, so I love that she loves watching them and playing with her characters!

The second thing that Caroline loves doing is pretend play with figures and character toys.

She has a great Daniel Tiger set that she has been playing with for a good year now. We found this My Busy Book with Troll characters and added that to her collection. And we are hoping to add these Paw Patrol figures as well! She can literally sit for hours and play with these "friends". She also has this great treehouse that she uses for her pretend play!

For her birthday, some of her favorite presents were craft related:

- Troll watercolor set (she liked this so much, she did all of the painting pages in 1 sitting LOL)

- Troll stamps (instead of using these as stamps, however, she loves to do more pretend play with them)

And, the big present for her birthday that she is enjoying nightly.... is her new star projector! This is her new "nightlight". The stars can be set to project different colors and even move! Caroline really loves being outdoors and looking at the moon and stars, so we brought them inside for her to look at nightly! It's been a huge hit!

I've recently compiled a list of all of our recommended products. This list includes everything from the newborn baby stages, to Caroline's current favorite items (and Mama's too)! You'll want to save this list, because as I find more favorite products, I'll add them onto the list for future reference. The list pretty much goes in order... most recent favorites at the top, to the baby products towards the beginning. The only products on this list are ones that we have tried and love. I hope you enjoy! Check out the Mama's Organized Chaos Favorite Products List here!

This post originally appeared at Christine Keys Motherhood and Parenting blog.

Year 2 is such an amazing year when it comes to engaging with your child. They are most likely talking up a storm and just doing so many amazing things. Their physical abilities are astounding during this year, and their gross and fine motor skills have really taken off. Their intelligence is booming and their little minds are ready and able to absorb so much.

It's a year to have fun with and take advantage of learning opportunities all at the same time. I remember during my daughter's first year, being so excited to be able to sit down and get coloring books out and really do some fun focused activities- well this is the year that all of that begins!

I will say that when it comes to capabilities of your child during year 2, there is a vast difference between 24 months of age, and 36 months! I'm the parent that refuses to use months to describe my daughter's age. When someone asks, she's either 2, 2.5, almost 3, or 3 LOL! Never do I say she's 34 months- that is, unless I'm writing a blog post. Then I find it necessary to explain exact age, since there is such a difference during this year.

The following activities are things you can do starting at 24 months and continue doing all throughout year 2 and then some. Just keep in mind that your child's capabilities will change drastically throughout the year, so their response to activities will be different depending on their age.

So, without further delay, here are 20 activities that you and your 2 year old will enjoy throughout the year:

  1. Board Games
    I was ecstatic to be able to finally play board games with my daughter! Board games teach rules, they teach patience, taking turns, and they teach skills. There are some fantastic games that help reinforce colors, counting, and more.

6 am rolled around- Caroline was awake and calling for me. It was November 25, 2017...the day before her third birthday.

Babywise confession: Even though her official wake time is 7 am (when her my tot clock turns yellow), I usually let her come into my bed if it's after 6 am. Prior to that, I'll go in and see what she needs, and then leave until it's official wake time, but we are a bit lax with that final hour if need be. 

Anyways, today was no different. Most days she makes it to 7 am without any problems. Today, however, she called and seemed upset. I went in to see what she needed. 

"I am sad", she told me. As we talked she told me she was sad about the baby, and about Chelsea.

Chelsea is our dog that died when Caroline was 1.5 years old, and April is our baby that died at birth from trisomy 13, when Caroline was 2.5 years old. 

Then she looked at me and stunned me. "Am I going to die on my birthday like the baby did?"

My heart just sunk. She proceeded to tell me that she was scared, and that she didn't want to die. She told me she didn't want anyone to die. Then asked about specific family members and if they were going to die. We had a long conversation.

This is one of those conversations that I wasn't expecting. We talk about death a lot in this house, since losing April. Caroline has a lot of questions. This was not one of the questions that had even made my mama radar.

"Am I going to die on my birthday like the baby did?"

Wow. Just wow.

Sometimes as parents we don't realize how much our tiny little toddlers absorb. I would have bet money that Caroline didn't even know the connection of the term "birthday" meaning someone's actual birth day.

A birthday in a child's head is just a day to celebrate someone. It's actually a big leap to realize that the day we are born is our true birthday. Simply put, I was astounded that she'd made this connection so readily.

To then also make the connection that April died on her birthday- and to be worried that people die on their birthdays. Wow. I never saw it coming.

I am so incredibly glad that our daughter is so expressive. I am amazed that she's able to verbalize her feelings, her fears, and all of her thoughts to us at this young age.

Her ability to express this thought to me, opened up a huge conversation that calmed her and comforted her. We talked again about why April died. She wanted specifics...down to the discussion of the extra chromosome. We also talked about how Caroline's body works correctly and that she has nothing to be afraid of.

To think that our daughter was terrified for her birthday to come- terrified that she, too, would die. I just can't even express how broken I felt in that moment.

Caroline, I hope you read these thoughts that I write down some day. I hope you know how proud we are of you. We are so lucky that you are who you are. We are so thankful that you are verbal enough, expressive enough, and aware enough of your feelings to talk about them.

We are honored that you feel so safe to talk with us and that you trust us to answer your questions. We are forever saddened that you've had to experience such a loss at such a young age.

I am also so glad that I break the Babywise "rules" and that I went in your room when you woke up at 6 am. Some of our best conversations happen at night or in the early morning hours when it is just the two of us. Rules are meant to be broken, and I am so glad that we have these moments.

Don't ever stop talking to us. Don't ever stop feeling. You are so in tune with your emotions. It's a true gift and I am so thankful that you have this ability. Your sister's strength lives on in all of us, and coupled with the strength you already had- well, you are a special force in this family and in this world.

We love you so much.

Keep talking. Keep letting us in. Keep feeling and keep loving.


Black Friday rang in a lot of deals on Amazon. I don't dare step out of my home on this day. The deals are not worth the chaos and the crowds in my mind... not to mention that many of the "sales" on this day are on items that have jacked up prices. It is just not my day to be out and about. Amazon, however, caught my eye on this day.

They had their Echo's on sale ($20) cheaper than the usual price. We actually just purchased an Echo and an Echo dot in the last couple of months. When I saw these items on sale, I realized immediately that I was going to be searching for some other deals.

First on my list... a robot vacuum. Yes you read that right-

A Robot Vacuum

I recently added a robot vacuum to my list based on the recommendation from several friends. I was intrigued enough to put one on my list, but knew full well I probably wasn't going to fork out a few hundred dollars for the convenience of this item.

Little did I know, it is WELL worth the money!

I originally had the Roomba brand on my wish list. On this day, however, the Deebot M80 was almost half off. It was marked at $169. I was SO excited. I know it probably sounds odd to be so excited about a vacuum, but I've learned that, as I get older (and now as a mom), I value my time.

Sweeping and vacuuming up the dog hair on a daily basis is not something I want my time to go towards. Yet, if I don't do it daily, we literally have tumble weeds of dog hair around our house. Not to mention, the insane amount of crumbs that accumulates under my toddler's chair at the dining room table. It feels impossible to keep up with.

So yes, a robot vacuum was high on my list this year.

When I saw the price, I immediately did some research on the Deebot vacuum (the reviews seemed better than the original Roomba that I'd had on my list), and I texted my husband:

My exact words: "Ummmm my vacuum is 50% off...Actually a better one that also connects to Alexa. Want to get this for me?"

Alexa, by the way, is the Echo that we purchased from Amazon. We use it as our radio as it instantly connects to music on Amazon and iHeart radio, etc. We also have plans to get some smart outlets and switches for our home that we can control with this device.

My husband responded to my text: "Do it. I was going to get you either the Deebot M79 or the Eufy Robo11."

Um OMG I love my husband. Literally in that moment I couldn't stop thinking that I have the best husband ever. I bragged and bragged to my visitors about how amazing my husband is! LOL!

Ok so that was last Friday. The vacuum arrived on Monday. Set up was incredibly easy and we had it programmed through Alexa to run that night and every night.

I could not be more impressed!

This vacuum (the Deebot M80) does a fantastic job getting up all of the dog hair off of our floors. We have laminate wood flooring on our main level, and carpet upstairs in the bedrooms. Right now we are just using it on the laminate flooring, but it also works on carpets, and it mops!

I watched this vacuum as it meandered around our living space. It went under chairs, over our little rugs at the doors, under the furniture that it fit under, around walls, etc. It found every space it could fit into. When it's done running, it parks itself in the battery charger so it's ready for the next evening.

Every morning, I wake up to a clean floor! I can also set it up to mop while it vacuums. It is the best feeling to wake up to a clean home. I'd long ago given up on keeping up with the dog hair. It bothered me and accumulated for a couple of days, and then I'd finally get the broom out. NO more! This vacuum runs nightly without any involvement from me.

The only thing we have to do, is empty the collection container before it runs. Not only have I gained time back in my life, my house is clean! The crumbs under the table are GONE! The tumble weeds of dog hair are GONE!

This little vacuum is such a great investment. The app tells us when a part needs replacing like a brush or filter. It even tell us the run time each night. Oddly enough it runs for the exact same amount of time each day. For our main living area, that time is 1 hour and 49 minutes.

We can schedule the vacuum using the Deebot app to run each night. We can also use the app as a remote control if we want to manually start it. Or... we can just ask Alexa to run the Deebot if needed. It is all so easy, and again I'm just so impressed with this item. It's doing a far better job of cleaning than I ever did, and it does it daily without so much as a click to tell it to do so!

Did I also mention that I am loving Alexa!? I speak when I want to play music. That's it. I just voice what I'd like to hear and tell Alexa. I ask her the time, the weather, and even football scores. I tell her to set alarms, and I can even have her answer questions. I don't have to google things anymore, I just talk to Alexa!

We ended up getting a smart outlet as well. We have a couple of lights plugged into these outlets. So instead of getting out of bed to go turn the light off that we forgot about, I just tell Alexa to do it. We can schedule the lights to come on at certain times as well. The smart home possibilities with Alexa are endless around here! We are just loving it.

So Mamas...if you are looking for something to put on that Christmas wish list of yours...I highly recommend the Deebot M80 vacuum (oh and Alexa, too)! And husbands... please get this for the "family gift" this year. Your wife will be ecstatic, and you will love it too!

I sat in the glider that was in our newly arranged baby room. I felt good. I knew exactly what to expect during the pregnancy, and as much as I could for the birth. I felt prepared. I suddenly realized, however, that I had no idea what to do when the baby actually came! It was one of those moments that I felt so silly... I'd prepared for the pregnancy, and read all of the books and information I could find about pregnancy and birth... but I'd read nothing about what to expect once the baby arrived.

I knew that I'd just figure things out as I went. I also knew that I felt very prepared and ready to have a baby. I wasn't nervous or worried about what to do, but I did want to at least prepare myself for a few basics on what to expect.

For example...

How many diapers do I really need each day?

How often should I expect to feed my baby?

How often is the baby going to be sleeping?

How often is the baby going to be waking in the middle of the night?

Not only did I want to mentally prepare for these questions, I wanted to have the right amount of supplies on hand. I wanted to make sure we had enough disposable diapers for the first few months, and I wanted to make sure I bought enough cloth diapers for the later months.

And breastfeeding... well I wanted to know what to expect. How often would I be whipping my boobs out? What was the typical day going to look like?

I found myself on Pinterest just looking around and doing some basic searches on these topics. I ran into the idea of baby schedules at this point. Being a type A, structured person, I really appreciated the idea of having a schedule and a plan for the day. Mostly, however, I was saving these ideas because they answered the above questions.

I had several examples saved of what a newborn schedule might look like. These schedules included the number of times I should expect to feed the baby, along with how many naps the baby should take at that age, and how often the baby might be waking in the middle of the night. They weren't all exactly alike, but it gave me a good baseline of what to expect.

At the same time, I was researching a bit on breastfeeding. My searches pulled up a lot of information on "on demand" feeding. It seemed to be the only way to do things when breastfeeding. So, even up to the day we went to the hospital and delivered Caroline, I was planning on doing on demand feeding. I figured I'd just keep the schedules on hand as a guide of what to expect.

Caroline was born early (at 37 weeks). She was induced due to me having possible cholestasis. Due to her early birth, along with her bilirubin levels being slightly off, we were instructed by the pediatrician to feed her every 2 hours around the clock.

I remember not really wanting to do this. They wanted me to wake our child, and I wanted to feed on demand. I went with the flow, however, because it was in our baby's best interest and health.

We had to do 2 hour feedings around the clock for 2 full weeks! Needless to say, we were tired. We also fell into a nice schedule as a result, however. Somewhere in these two weeks, I pulled up my saved schedules from Pinterest and started making some connections. Finally, the term Babywise came up in my searches. I immediately bought the book.

While Babywise was not something I was initially planning on, it certainly ended up being a fantastic fit for us.

I found that I loved the predictability of the schedule. I loved the concept of the eat, wake, sleep routines. I knew I wanted to prioritize my child's sleep as much as I could, and everything I read in the book seemed to make perfect sense.

My husband was also on board. I shared all of my findings with him and remember having many discussions on the topic. We could both argue both sides... demand feeding and scheduled feeding (and often did change our stance). We knew we didn't have the perfect answers, and when things didn't go as planned we often questioned our chosen path.

The reality that I knew (but didn't really know at the time), is that things don't go as planned. The schedule doesn't fall into place until closer to the 3 month mark. The first few months there is just this goal...this idea of a schedule. There is a basic routine and pattern to the day, but everyone (parents and baby) are figuring things out and finding their rhythm.

I am so incredibly glad that we chose to follow the path of Babywise. I now swear by it and have a huge passion for sharing our success. I am a mom that breastfed on a schedule, and I loved every aspect of it. Feeding on a schedule helped my supply, helped our baby get full feedings, sleep better, and so much more.

I knew when I could leave the house and that I wouldn't get stuck out of the house with a tired or hungry baby. The predictability was amazing and comforting.

Thank goodness I discovered Babywise!

Curious how all of the wonderful writers in the Babywise Friendly Blog Network discovered Babywise? Me too! Check out their stories below:

Emily: How I Discovered Babywise

Christine: How I Discovered the Remarkable Gift of Babywise

Valerie: How the Babywise Mom Discovered Babywise

Caitlin: How I Discovered Babywise and Why I Followed it Despite the Controversy

Natasha: How I Discovered Babywise

Kimberly: Why I Quit Babywise

A few nights ago Caroline was in bed. She called us into her room. My husband took a turn this time. I listened on the monitor to see how it was going. My tears were instant as Caroline asked Daddy some questions...

"Will we get another Chelsea?" (Chelsea is our dog that died when Caroline was about 1.5 years old). My husband explained that we may get another dog one day, but it will never be another Chelsea.

"Will we get another April?" (April is her little sister that died at birth a few months ago. 3 months and 8 days ago to be exact).

Then she asked for the "baby book".

I ran to her room with tears streaming down my face.

Caroline has said April's name only twice. I missed both of those moments. She usually refers to April as "the baby". My husband has had the honor of hearing her say April Rey, but I had not. When I heard her say April's name, my heart just filled with so much joy.

When I got to her room she was holding the "baby book" (Title: We Were Gonna Have a Baby, but We Had an Angel Instead). We bought Caroline 2 books to help explain the situation to her. This book arrived prior to April being born. When I told her that the book was about what was happening with April, Caroline told me she didn't want to read it. I'd inquire every once in awhile, and she'd say that she was "too scared". We respected her wish and had not read it to her.

The second book that arrived (Title: Something Happened), I just decided to read to her without warning. I took a chance and luckily it paid off. She identified with the book, asked questions, and we've read it several times.

The first book, however... just sat there on the shelf. She'd hold it and look at it, but never did she want me to read it. We always respected her wish and just told her that it was ok, and when she was ready, we'd read it. Any time she was looking at it, I'd just ask if she was ready. I was always met with "No, not yet."

Tonight I looked at my daughter and asked one more time. "Caroline, do you want Mama to read the book to you?"


Caroline said yes. 3 months and 8 days after April's birth, our daughter was ready to read the book.

I read it through tears. My husband held his girls as we all cried and had our family moment that evening. Caroline comforted me as I cried. "Oh Mama, it's ok. Everything is ok. We will have another baby."

3 months and 8 days.

Caroline is such a strong girl. She turns 3 at the end of this month just for reference. She is aware of her feelings, and she expresses herself very well. She has taken care of us more than she'll ever know.

I am so impressed that she asks questions, talks to us, and knows when she's ready to take a step forward. Tonight she took that step. She's grieving in her own little toddler way, and I am so thankful that she includes us and allows us to help her in her journey.

These 3 months and 8 days have been slow and so hard. My family is stronger than we've ever been. You don't know the strength that you have until you just have to have it. Caroline already knows that strength.

While emotions have been high and more arguments and short tempers have been present, there has also been more love and more strength that I could have ever dreamed.

April showed us true, raw love and courage. She showed us strength in a form that we've never seen. April's energy keeps us going every day. Caroline may not have her little sister home with her, but she has certainly blossomed into a truly special and amazing big sister and daughter.

Read more about April on this page.

Every year, we go to a drive through Christmas lights event at one of the local parks. When I lived in Austin, TX long ago... we used to go to similar events, but they were walk through. I loved getting bundled up, having hot chocolate or coffee, and walking the lights. I've been searching for something similar here in Maryland. Yes, there's something to be said for being nice and toasty in your car, but I just love being outside for these events for some reason.

So, we've been checking out some new Christmas lights events in the area (Central Maryland)...

Last year, we went to The Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens. This place was great. In fact, now that I'm remembering about it, we will probably do it again this year. There are tons of lights, and there is a great train display set up inside. You can purchase hot chocolate, and the lights were so fun to see.

This year, we FINALLY got to go to the S'mores and Lights at Seneca Creek State Park. For the last couple of years I've missed the deadline for signing up. It is held on only one night, and registration is in the beginning of October.

By the time I got around to even thinking about Christmas lights, the 500 tickets were long gone and the event was sold out.

This year however, I was prepared. I marked the registration date on my calendar last winter. That's right! So, when the date rolled around this time, I woke up nice and early (5:30 am) and was ready for the 6 am registration opening!

My preparedness paid off, and we were able to purchase the first tickets. And yes, I was the only crazy person up at that hour ensuring our spot at this event. Not a single ticket was sold after the ones I'd purchased, until closer to the 8/9 am hour. I think I really should get a prize or something for being the first to purchase tickets! LOL!

Anyways, the event was amazing and we'll be going back next year!

This event happens to be at the same location as the drive through lights that we attend every year. The park isn't yet open to the public outside of a few special events, however. They do these events the week before and leading up to Thanksgiving.

S'mores and Lights was awesome!

1. Trolley Ride: They have wagons set up and we all get to go for a trolley ride through the lights. They provide blankets and music as we drive through all bundled up! My only complaint here was that we were facing backwards so it was hard to see. Next year, we plan to grab one of the wagons that has everyone sitting sideways instead.

2. Santa: Caroline didn't care to do this, but you can take your kids inside to meet Santa.

3. Hot Chocolate: Free hot chocolate was provided, and they even planned well and had cooler hot chocolates for the little kids.

4. Live Music: Inside with Santa and the hot chocolate, you could stay warm and listen to Christmas Carols sung by a live band.

5. S'MORES: This was the highlight of the event. You get to grab a bag with your personal s'more kit. They have fire pits burning and everything all set up. We got to roast our own s'mores out at the campfires. So much fun!

6. Donations: They also had a donation collection area for new books, toys etc. We took the opportunity to donate some new books.

This event was so much fun! We got there right as the event opened. This paid off big time because there were no lines for the trolleys, or the fires. It worked out perfectly. Caroline loved the lights and, eventually, she was brave enough to roast a marshmallow on her own. She hated how sticky the marshmallow was, so she settled on just eating chunks of chocolate, while Daddy and I devoured the s'mores!

This is an event that we'll be doing again. We all loved it, and it definitely got us in the holiday spirit!

Our almost 3 year old has fine, straight hair. Somehow it still gets super knotted at times. Knots have become a source for her toddler fits, and can easily bring on quite the storm of emotions. No matter how careful and gentle I am, knots are knots- and at the end of the day, they hurt to get out.

Anything I can do to help ease the pain and discomfort for Caroline is a win. I want her to enjoy getting her hair done. And at a minimum, I want her to let me get it done tear free. Over the last 3 years I've learned some tips and tricks along the way...

1. Invest in a "wet brush"

These brushes are amazing. They are designed to use on wet hair, but can obviously be used on wet or dry hair. They work wonderfully to get knots out. I preferred using it on dry hair until I found the right products to go with it on wet hair (see detangler below). These brushes are nice and gentle, and really get the job done well.

2. Brush multiple times a day

I brush Caroline's hair every morning and every evening. It helps to keep up with the knots so we don't have one massive job every morning. If she lets me, I even brush her hair before or after her nap. Small knots throughout the day are easy to tackle.

3. Use a detangler spray

We love this kids detangler spray from Suave. It smells so nice, and it really has helped a lot to reduce knots and help make them easier to get out. I use this on both dry and wet hair, but I've found it works the best on wet hair. This combined with the wet brush, is a perfect combination. Knots are very easy to get out now!

4. Keep hair up in a ponytail or braid

When I keep Caroline's hair up in a ponytail or braid during the day, there are fewer knots. It keeps her hair from getting tangled. The same applies to nighttime. A braid, or a nice high ponytail on the top of her head (so she's not laying on it and uncomfortable) works great. She rarely wants me to put it up at night, but when she does, I take full advantage! 

5. Use conditioner

We haven't made this switch yet, but instead of using a shampoo/conditioner combo in the bath/shower, it is best to start using an actual conditioner. As soon as we run out of our current supply, we'll be switching to a separate shampoo and conditioner. The conditioner just works much better and has a chance to really do it's job. A nice trick I use with my own hair, is to put the conditioner in, and as I am rinsing my hair out, I use a comb to get any knots out. It makes my hair nice and slippery, so the knots also slip right out. 

Yes, we still have knots- there's no way to get rid of them completely. But these practices and products make a world of difference! We have had drastically reduced tears and fits over knots as a result.