Keeping Baby Entertained While you Homeschool

Keeping Baby Entertained While You HomeschoolIf you’re homeschooling, or even helping one or more children with a good-sized homework load, and juggling a baby or toddler as well, things can get…challenging. Elementary-aged children especially often need a lot of one-on-one parent time when learning, and babies and toddlers really don’t care about this. So what’s a well-meaning parent to do?

Probably my least favorite (but definitely doable) solution to this is to plan the parent-intensive parts of the day during your baby’s naptime (this probably isn’t a solution at all if you are doing homework after school). Why do I say it’s my least favorite? Well, to be honest, I love naptime. It’s a chance for me to recharge as well as for my baby, and if we are spending that time working on schoolwork, that chance is gone. So the downside is purely selfish, but the upside is it’s likely to be the quietest time of the day.

Another idea is having things like busy books or other independent and hands-on activities for your babies or toddlers to work on. These are especially nice if you can keep the younger child self-contained while doing them, like in her high chair, where you know she is safe and occupied and won’t be wandering off and getting into trouble if you are concentrating on school work. I like to organize my homeschool curriculum each week by getting all the supplies I’ll need and separating them out for each day. You could do the same for your baby or toddler, and pre-bag different activities for him to play with each day while you work with the older children.

Baby wearing can be a viable option for some of the instruction period. Wearing your baby is especially useful when you are standing and doing hands-on or cooking/baking type activities.

Of course, portable centers like exersaucers or areas cordoned off with baby gates and with toys inside are also good options, especially if your child is very active. Some kids love more sedentary things like busy books, and others just want to move.

As your baby grows older, you could even provide her with her own workbook or “homework” that she can do alongside her older siblings. The older siblings rarely agree about this, but younger siblings are often jealous of homework and would like their own to do.

Meaghan Howard is a stay-at-home mom to two little boys. She’s currently trying to stay afloat and stay sane in a sea of schoolwork and other kid activities.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
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My Pregnancy: Week 16

My Pregnancy Week 16We’ve reached that point where we are bursting at the seams. Not with our budget for maternity wear, making room for new baby, or too much on our to-do list. I’m referring to my jeans. They are getting snug. I think I still have a couple more weeks of wear with them, but I have pulled out maternity clothes to bridge the gap, the literal gap between button and button hole. I appreciate my investment in a previous pregnancy of the Belly Belt. Bra extenders are also helpful in the coming months until I switch into nursing gear.

Underneath all of this is a little bit of discomfort. I used to be in shape, workout-an-hour-most-days and run-long-distance shape. Then a hubby and family happened. I’m not blaming them. This is generally on me. Baby #1 brought ten more pounds and baby two matched that. I know many women by now have the obvious baby bump. I know that isn’t going to come for me for another month. Usually I’m pretty happy about myself in general. My body is capable of amazing feats, you know, like childbirth and balancing two 35-pound kids on my hips while doing three other things.

I think part of the reason involves the pregnant woman’s body becoming public. Whether I personally or we as woman like that is questionable, but still I experience more public interest now than usual. Even though I’ve experienced less attention this rodeo, I still have little pieces of shame that go along with knowing I don’t look pregnant the same way that some others do at this time…the way I did with my first pregnancy. You see, I’m not assuming they are happy with their bodies. I’m not judging their bodies; I am judging my own.

For me it is a small piece health related but mostly just that world many mamas are familiar with. It’s the world of lacking long-term perspective because in-the-moment has you overwhelmed. It’s the being worn out from a full day of work to come home to family and juggling everything. Something has got to give and fast food happens 10 percent more than it used to, exercise about 30 percent less. It’s not shocking to me that I haven’t lost the weight I gained since marriage and during pregnancies. I even, at least on the surface level, accept and love the way I have managed to balance everything we do as a family.

But clearly, in these moments when I’m disappointed at not looking clearly enough pregnant, I know I still have a little work to do on self-acceptance. I’ve recommitted myself to taking walks most evenings for both my health and the baby’s. Now that I’m not working, I’m focusing again on where I can add a veggie in and leave take-out…out.

In the mean time, I’m reminded of the awesome things my body is doing—incubating life! That still blows me away. What an incredible thing to live in the midst of. On the one hand, I’m not really doing much to make this baby thrive. On the other hand I’m reminded that every dimple, jiggle, and mark on my body tells the story of a life lived. My bump may be meager, but I’m proud of me.

Annie is a mom of two toddlers finding comfort in breakfast foods and the excitement of one little baby on the way. She’s less tired than the last three months but more tired than 5 years ago.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015
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Amazing Moms: Getting a Graduate Degree When you Still Have Babies at Home

Amazing Moms: Getting a Graduate Degree When you Still Have Babies at HomeThere is a common phenomenon that occurs when you have a child: You are forgotten. Not just with the people who stop by, the people who call, with only questions about how the baby is doing, how the baby is growing—you also forget yourself. Days pass without even a shower, and when was the last time you ate a meal sitting down with the appropriate utensils? Your world revolves around this tiny human, and your basic needs are put on the back burner.

The martyrdom of motherhood has long been revered, though in the communication age, we are exposed to alternatives to this model. It is possible, it turns out, to give your heart to motherhood, and also maintain your individual self. Dr. Emily Owen is an example of this, as someone who experienced the life-changing experience of welcoming two daughters into the world, while simultaneously pursuing a graduate degree in Art History. “I set getting a PhD as a goal when I was seventeen and I knew I would kick myself if I didn’t get it done—I knew I would regret it.”

Balancing parenting and studying was difficult, and Dr. Owen said she still feels she is recovering. She looks back on the picture of her with her oldest daughter after Dr. Owen’s hooding, though, and is grateful for the example it sets for her girls. “I hope they go to grad school,” Dr. Owen said, noting that she hopes they are able to achieve independence with the opportunities a graduate education can provide.

For those who are contemplating going back to school during motherhood, Dr. Owen has some tips for making the seemingly impossible more doable:

  • “When you are with your kids, be with your kids.” Dr. Owen notes that this can be difficult with the balancing of studying and all of the other responsibilities that come with being a student, but maintaining focus and mindfulness on what is currently in front of you allows for efficiency and decreases burnout.
  • “Cultivate a village—have great friends to talk to, friends to fill in and help you with your kids in crisis periods.” Support keeps you going when filling two full-time roles feels overwhelming. Dr. Owen also found advisors who were also parents, which allowed for greater mentorship in her dual roles.
  • Self care. “Lots of bodywork—rolfing/chiropractic care, energy work, walking, good food” were what helped Dr. Owen manage some of the stress of parenting as a student.
  • Choose carefully. “Pick a field of study that provides you immediate job opportunities after graduation,” Dr. Owen suggested, as well as picking a program that provides full funding for its students to minimize debt.

Most importantly, Dr. Owen wants any moms out there contemplating working toward “having it all” that they don’t need to actually do it all by themselves. “Ask for help as needed,” she advised, making it official—getting support is just what the doctor ordered.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

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How to Keep Your Baby on a Schedule When You Go Home for the Holidays

How to Keep Your Baby on a Schedule When You Go Home for the HolidaysGetting a baby on a schedule is an accomplishment in itself. For me, schedules are essential. I need to have order and some kind of routine in my life with my kids. This is especially important when we go home for the holidays. Our family is 6 hours away, and it can be a challenge to maintain normalcy while we are enjoying the company of our loved ones. Here are some ways you can keep your little one on a schedule and yourself sane during the holidays.

Sleep–It’s a beautiful thing

We all know how important naps are. When my daughter, who is now 3, didn’t take a nap, there was this strange phenomena that occurred around 5 p.m. She became a different child. She would either go crazy, stop listening, and run around like a crazy toddler, or she would fall asleep wherever we were.

When you are visiting family during the holidays, don’t neglect nap time. Little ones need it. Moms need it. Try to establish a place of comfort for your child to sleep if you staying with family. When we visit, I always bring Johanna’s blanket, pillow, and lovey, “Teddy.” This way, it feels like she is sleeping in her own bed, even though it isn’t. It’s tempting to go out and about and just forget about naps and regular bedtimes when there are presents to buy, programs to attend, and endless gatherings to share in. However, you will be thankful you let your baby get some much needed rest. It will make your trip so much better–promise.

Meals, Snacks, and Nursing

The holidays are a time when there is so much to eat, and often so much that is bad for you to eat. It’s important to still be the mom while you are around your family. Sure, grandma may want to feed your little one a sugar cookie, How to Keep Your Baby on a Schedule When You Go Home for the Holidaysbut remember you are mom. Try to keep mealtime normal. Bring your high chair, bibs, and table wear. Use the same cups you use at home. Keep meals consistent. If your little one likes to eat veggies for lunch, serve veggies no matter where you are. Of course, it is okay to break out of the routine some, but it is important to keep some normalcy.

I always pack a huge bag of snacks for my two little ones when we go home for the holidays. I know what they like, so we make a trip to the grocery store prior to leaving. While there are snacks at Grammy’s house, they aren’t what they are used to, which can cause tantrums and belly aches.

As far as nursing is concerned, remember to do what works for you and your baby. If you usually nurse before naps and bedtime, continue to do so. Don’t worry about family’s opinions or who is around. Take care of you and your baby.

Playtime and Fun with Family

My favorite part about going home for the holidays is all of the fun my children get to have with loved ones. I have great memories of taking my daughter home when she was 4 months old by myself and heading to see Santa, heading to the pumpkin patch, and attending her first parade.

While there are so many amazing memories to be made, remember to try to stick to some routine. I always bring a laundry basket full of my children’s toys. I let them pick out some of them and then we bring things they maybe have forgotten about. Once again, remember you are mom. If you don’t want your child to participate in something, speak up. For example, if you don’t want older children to put your little one on a trampoline, stop it before it happens. Trust your instincts.

So mom, how do you enjoy the holidays with family and keep your kids sane?

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of 2 in Northeast Indiana. She can’t wait for the holidays and time with family again!

Sunday, November 22, 2015
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Dealing with Pushy Relatives During the Holidays

Tips for Minimizing Gift Overload this ChristmasFor some, holidays are a wonderful break from everyday life. The car is loaded up, the kids are excited, and you spend the day/weekend/month with family you haven’t seen nearly as often as you would like. The time leading up to the big day is spent looking anxiously at the calendar, excited for the opportunity to see those you love so dearly.

This article is meant for the rest of us.

You know, those of us who remember last year, when your sister-in-law said something about your parenting. Or when Grandpa ignored you when you said you didn’t want your three-year-old watching Rambo. Or when your great-aunt asked if you were sure you needed that large of a slice of pie. Though you will the days to not pass so quickly, you can see the date approaching, and your palms get sweaty. Your heart races. Your chest tightens, and at the thought of spending time with family makes you feel claustrophobic.

It is difficult to get into the spirit of the holidays when it requires spending time with people who can be damaging to your psyche. The pain can feel intense, particularly with the notion that family members are supposed to be those who nurture and uplift you, and a memory of the acute pain can make you feel powerless.

So this year you are going to reclaim your power, because you deserve to feel safe and feel respected, especially with family members. And here is how:

  • Revisit the painful event. When your sister-in-law made that comment, what did you feel? How did you react? How do you feel about your reaction? Accept your reaction as the best that you could do in that moment with the information and experience you had. Your hurt feelings were and are valid, and you are welcome to grieve for your past self for experiencing something that pained you so.
  • Create an action plan. Should Grandpa ignore your boundaries regarding your children again, what can you do? Have a mental list of alternate activities you could do with your children, such as going on a walk or taking them to another room to read a book. If you feel safe, include saying to Grandpa, “If you are going to spend time with my children, you need to respect the boundaries I have set with them. If you choose to ignore those boundaries, then you are choosing to not spend time with my children.”
  • Rehearse a phrase to have in your back pocket. “That is a really inappropriate thing to say,” is surprisingly useful in many situations. When confronted with a difficult situation, our minds can go blank. Having something that you have repeated to yourself, particularly in replaying what your Great Aunt said last year, can make it easier to stand up for yourself in a situation that left you feeling powerless before. Finding your voice is difficult if you’re used to suppressing it–give yourself allowance for it to feel raw and abrasive at first as you get used to using it.

You deserve to feel safe, and even more so when with family during a holiday. Give yourself plenty of allowance as you explore how to create that safety for yourself and your children, and may this year be better than last.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

Friday, November 20, 2015
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