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It's Babywise Friendly Blog Network Day! All of the bloggers are blogging about the topic of "summer". See below for a ful list of links! Enjoy the posts!

As a teacher, I longed for summer. It was such a wonderful break. Except for one thing... while my schedule was freed up, my husband's schedule was ramping up. While teachers and children are off in the summer, and it is often an ideal time for summer vacations and lots of on the go fun, in our house it's time for gearing up for some difficult, long days. My husband (a golf course superintendent) can't take off for vacations during these months (our family vacations happen in the winter), and often he won't be home for dinner. The weekends are also work days, and there is no break in the schedule (7 days a week) until the weather breaks during the fall season. It's hard on him, and it's also hard on me. I end up kind of solo parenting during these months, and it can get difficult. I know our circumstance is unique, but I also know there are lots of other moms that end up with a similar scenario. Each summer, I try and manage things a little bit better. So, in my effort to tackle these difficult months, and in the hopes that other moms out there might benefit from this as well, I've decided to put together our plan on how to get by!

1. Meal Plan Specifically with Leftovers in Mind

Ok, so here's the thing about tracking journals. They are super useful, but only if they are really good! I have to say, I'm pretty picky about what information I want to record, and how I want to record it.

By the time I realized I needed/wanted to be tracking all of Caroline's habits (eating, sleeping, wake time, diaper changes, which side I breastfed on, etc.), I was in full on stay alive mode and too busy to search for one that would be useful.

I ended up just recording information about her schedule on a blank notebook that I kept handy. I also made use of my phone. None of the apps seemed to be what I wanted, but there was one simple solution that was going to help me- setting alarms.

Every time we had a schedule change, I set both feeding alarms and nap alarms on my phone. This way, I could better keep track of the time and when things were supposed to happen.

With schedules changing frequently, that was THE most useful tool that I had at the time.

Fast forward 2 years, and I've since designed a printable baby tracking journal for the basics (eat, wake, sleep). It has recommended schedules, places to keep track of the times and to record any observations.

It's basic, but useful. You can check it out in my Etsy shop. It will make things much more organized than simply using notebook paper like I did the first time around!

Right as I was designing this printable option, I was contacted by a fellow Babywise mama about a baby tracking journal that she has in production. I agreed to do a review on the journal, and I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised! I definitely plan on using this journal for baby #2. Let me tell you why:

1. Tracking of schedules (goals and actual) is easy to do with this journal! 

The schedule portion of the journal is an easy tracking system with a grid that you simply draw on. If baby was asleep for 2 hours, you just make a line from 10am-12pm in the chart to indicate a nap.

Here's how I plan on altering this for my use. At the top I'm going to write "eat", "wake", and "sleep" in different colors. All on the same chart I'll record these different tasks in different colors. I'm also planning on putting our goal at the top of the chart.

I've filled out the week 8 schedule with what this goal will look like for you to see. As we go through the week, I'll just record what actually happened in the spaces below to see how well we are doing with the current scheduling goals.

I'll still be setting my phone alarms to help me remember the times, but this all in one recording tool is going to be fabulous!

Saving Animals From Extinction       Stonyfield Organic

I have the wonderful opportunity of getting to work as a blogger for Stonyfield (yes the company with the yummy yogurt that we all love feeding to our babies and toddlers)! Stonyfield is an amazing company to work with, as they are very focused on sustainability and conservation efforts. Their latest effort is a very exciting one to share with you all. Stonyfield is partnering with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) SAFE program (Saving Animals From Extinction). Not only are they contributing funds to a great cause, they have a distinct focus to bring families and children into our zoos, aquariums, and to research locations. Their goal is to inspire a lifelong appreciation of our planet, and a commitment to animal conservation in the next generation.

So how does this impact you? Well, you get to enjoy all of the benefits!

Yesterday's task: Putting away 2T clothes, and getting out 3T and 4T clothes. This project took our entire morning. I hate doing the clothing switches from one size to the next! First of all, every brand is different, so I try to keep like fits in the same rotation, instead of just basing it on size...and that makes things so frustrating to move around. I also just don't deal with the clothes until I have to, so there's that, too! haha 

While dealing with the clothes is a pain, we've found ways to make it less of a pain:

1. We have a "doesn't fit catch all bin". If I put something on Caroline and it is too tight, I take it off and chuck it into this bin that I keep in her closet. It's open and ready for clothes all the time. I don't bother sorting by size or permanently storing at this stage...this is just the get it out of our way and I'll put it away later bin, and it works super well!

Everything about Easter this year was so wonderful. I don't know which part was the best- Daddy getting to come home from work at a decent hour, Caroline having so much fun finding her Easter basket, or the fun she had getting to share a train ride with Daddy. It was all just perfect.

Easter eve, Daddy got the exciting task of hiding Caroline's Easter basket. At her age, she's actually pretty good at finding things, but it totally depends on her mood. She's pretty impatient and is in a phase where she doesn't like to try on her own and immediately asks for help. Daddy chose the perfect spot for her basket with these things in mind! This year, it was tucked away in her shoe bin by the front door, with just a little bit of the handle sticking out to catch her eye.

This is the first thing we see as we walk downstairs, so I actually made sure to stand in front of it so she wouldn't see it immediately! I wanted her to have to look at least a little bit! (Horrible mom I know haha). So when we were in the family room, she set off looking. She looked under the table, under the couch, and in a few bins once I finally got her going. She then decided she was going to go look in the kitchen cabinets. As she walked in the hallway, she noticed her shoes needed to be put away. This immediately drew her attention to her shoe bin, and she found her basket!

In her basket this year:

Toddlerhood is a stage where children are seeking independence. They push the boundaries we have in place. They become stubborn when not allowed to do as they please. They want to do things on their own, even if they aren't yet physically able to do so (hello food all over the floor from the toddler trying to carry her plate to the sink after dinner!).

Disciplining a toddler is crucial. We have to help guide them to make good choices and to understand that poor choices have consequences. Being consistent is key, even though it's not always easy. 

Our third child is in the toddler stage right now and she's my most stubborn toddler yet. I have always required our children to reply with a command I give by saying "yes ma'am" (this allows both myself and the child to know that they heard me and understood what I was asking of them as well as the discipline action that will take place if they choose not to obey). Even just getting the "yes ma'am" response from her can be a struggle!

I've thought a lot about this stubbornness and how to best discipline to her specific needs. It's true what they say about all children being different...they are! Each of our children has responded to our parenting methods in different ways and we've had to tweak things along the way to cater to each of their unique personalities. 

I have recently come up with what I call "The Two Choices Method of Discipline". I completely invented this myself so feel free to make fun of the name ;) I keep things basic around here. And the name is exactly what the method is! 

We have NO entryway. The entry to our home is a hallway. In that hallway is a door to a bathroom, the opening to the stairs, and the opening to the kitchen. So, not only do we not have much of an entryway, we have no wall space either.

We have a very small coat closet (luckily), that houses our coats, grocery bags, dog leashes, and winter boots. There is no room for anything else. Typically our shoes that are in daily use spill over onto the stairs, our coats that we use daily end up on the couch, and the small table that we have in the 19 inches between the bathroom and stairs is cluttered with keys, wallets, and mail. It is not ideal to say the least.

In those 19 inches, I had a small table that I'd shoved a basket underneath to house a lot of our shoes. Our daughter's shoes and sweatshirts for going out, ended up in a bin on the landing of the stairs. I finally got fed up with our situation and took the final steps to making our entryway work MUCH better.

I wish I would have taken before pictures, of course! Although many of these changes happened over time.

Here's how we maximize our space and get the most use out of our small entryway:

1. I took the much needed step of cleaning out the coat closet. There is now much more room and we only have necessities in the closet. If I didn't know the item was in the closet, it was either donated or thrown away (depending on what it was).

We also found plastic drawers that fit nicely into the closet. This takes advantage of the vertical space between the floor and the coats hanging above. We fit all of our winter boots in the bottom drawer, our grocery bags in the middle drawer, and our dog items in the top drawer.

This post originally appeared as a guest post at The Journey of Parenthood, on February 9, 2017. 

"It will be a great error to sit back and let your toddler direct his own show. He needs direction, and yes, correction. Both are demonstrations of love." (Toddlerwise, page 103)

Parenting a toddler is hard. Toddlers are just realizing they can test boundaries. They don't fully understand the implications of their actions, and they have TONS of energy that, if not put to good use, will get put to bad use in a moments notice.

If your 2 year old is suddenly saying "no" to everything you ask, or perhaps they've started hitting, throwing tantrums, and doing things they shouldn't do (running away from you, climbing on the table, etc.), it's easy to just push it off as the "terrible twos" and move on. Yes, part of it really is their age, but it is still essential that we have high expectations of our children and hold them to it. They need correction and we need to be consistent with our methods. Ignoring the behavior and hoping it will go away is NOT a method of correction, and provides no immediate feedback from which to learn from.

Wondering what you can do? Here are 6 great suggestions from the Toddlerwise book by Gary Ezzo. I don't know about you, but I need ALL the suggestions I can get!

One of the things I LOVE about having a blog, is that I get the chance to record things, no matter how big or small. I love the idea of looking back at this when Caroline is older and seeing all of the characteristics, tendencies, qualities, and just her overall personality at different ages. I'm also a first time mom, and I am fascinated by how quickly Caroline learns things, and I'm always amazed at the things she's capable of. I'm hoping my amazement doesn't go away when I'm no longer a first time mom, and I honestly don't think it will. As I go through this wonderful journey with Caroline, I can't help but record these observations!

The latest observation that I've been meaning to record for a couple of months now: 

It is officially spring time, and Caroline and I will be outdoors as much as possible once again! Even through the cold months, we bundle up and make it outside. Caroline is always eager to explore and rarely phased by the cold or wet conditions. She's usually up for anything!

With the nice weather starting, we thought we'd brighten up our entry with some new planters and beautiful flowers. Caroline really enjoys picking dandelions and other flowers that we find on our walks, so we knew she'd have a blast picking out flowers for our front steps. I usually like to keep the flowers far away from our door in the hopes that the bees will also stay far away from us LOL! This year, however, I figured I'd make an exception and give in to this, since I knew how much Caroline would love it!

I saw a meme recently that read something to the effect of - I gave up a lot of things when I became a mom...The F-bomb wasn't one of them. I immediately laughed and raised my hand- "guilty"! A lot about my life has changed. I am a stay at home mom, and poop makes it into my vocabulary daily- no wait, more like hourly. I rarely have adult conversations, and don't really have reasons to put nice clothes on anymore. I haven't changed, however. I'm still me. And as me- well I like to use the f-bomb when, happens.

Am I more conscious of it? Yes. But, have I stopped? No.

Has my daughter repeated the curse words? YES! And guess what!? It is hilarious to hear a 2 year old curse. Talk about getting a good laugh! 

Does she go around cursing? No- because we don't make a big deal about it and it is just a word to her.