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Dear Mushka,

Katie and Robert Answer Your Questions on Family, Discipleship and the Busy Holiday Season

Once a month we like to do a Q&A which you all love and we are so honored that you enjoy listening to us or reading our answers. You can find the recorded interview here.

Q: Robert, what does your day look like?

A: I run Dear Mushka day-to-day which involves inventory, customer service, production, shipping, managing the team, accounting and finance - all of those fun things! I am also chief of staff for Your Enneagram Coach and help run that with all of the courses, public speaking and books that go along with it.

Katie gets up early to spend time with the Word and pray and get the day started with the boys. I wake up after Katie when some of the boys are already up, often with one of them jumping on me in bed or them coming to find me. I jump straight into emails in the morning to make sure our website is still working, that nothing broke overnight. I take the boys to preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I love doing that! My days are largely unstructured. They involve a lot of emails and putting out fires and seeing what needs to happen day-to-day within the business. 

Q: How did you get started with jewelry making and growing Dear Mushka?

A: You can read all about it in this post.

Q: What practical boundaries have you set or found helpful in marriage?

A: Just making a decision to not speak negatively about your spouse in public. Obviously you can share with a friend that you trust, but it’s about not being an expert on their weaknesses and rather focusing on their strengths. It can be challenging, but I always want Robert’s name to be safe in my mouth. I want people to know that I love him and respect him, and that’s how I’m going to talk about him.

I think it’s important to not build an emotional relationship with a person of the opposite gender. You can have friends and coworkers, but it's a bad idea to have an emotionally charged relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Even if you think there is no attraction or no risk, being emotionally or spiritually intimate with someone else when you’re married is probably not going to lead anywhere good. 

We also make sure to be intimate frequently, whatever that means for your marriage. We make sure to bring ourselves closer to each other even in busy seasons. 

Q: What steps can you take to prepare your heart for marriage or just to enjoy your singleness?

A: We aren’t super equipped to answer this as we both got married when we were young. I do think its really important to know that marriage is not the answer - it isn’t going to take away your problems. You’ll probably have more problems! Don’t let yourself believe that lie and turn marriage into an idol. Marriage is hard work. 

Do your self work now. Go to counselling, figure out how you can love the Lord better, how you can serve Him. How has God equipped you to serve His Kingdom? Do all these things now because they’re all going to be important in a marriage. 

Q: Tips for enjoying the holiday season with littles who are overtired and out of routine?

A: Set boundaries and remember your kids can’t stand up for themselves, so help them. We’ve decided that our immediate family is more important than all the other things. If my immediate family’s routines don't coordinate well with other family activities, we don’t go. It’s okay to say you aren’t available during nap time or that you need to be in bed by 8. 

Also remember that the season is only a few weeks. Kids are super resilient, but if you know they don’t cope well without their nap or they can’t handle a lot of sugar, ask for help. Set yourself up for success. We’ll often give a clear indication of the times we’re available in the mornings or afternoons. If something is happening during those times, we’ll either miss out or say we’ll see everyone a bit later. 

Q: What is your approach to schooling decisions?

A: We are in the middle of it right now! We’re figuring out kindergarten for the first time. I don’t really know what to do besides pray and listen for God’s direction. We said that we would never adopt and never homeschool and yet here we are with three adopted children and we feel like God is currently steering our hearts towards homeschooling. We just continue to pray and trust for guidance. 

Also know that you’re not locked into anything forever. Try it out! If you feel like you made the wrong decision or one of your children responds differently, just recalibrate. 

Q: How can I best encourage and respect my husband to lead our family?

A: I did it wrong for so many years - I tried to nag Robert into leading our family the way I wanted him to. This really does not work! It was really helpful for me to acknowledge that what I wanted wasn’t necessarily what Robert needed to do. I needed to see his strengths instead of what I wanted his strengths to be and celebrate them.

When I realized this, I turned to prayer instead of nagging. I prayed that God would equip him with leadership and give me insight into how to best serve my husband. The Lord has truly answered my prayer over and over again. Pray daily for guidance and for your husband! 

(Robert) I would just want you all to understand that being a man in a Christian environment and feeling the burden to lead can feel daunting and overwhelming. A lot of us haven’t had leadership modelled well for us in our lives. When all of a sudden a man is being asked to lead and he's never done it before, it helps to understand his heart and his motivations. Come to him with help and desire rather than with judgement and criticism. Start small and celebrate wins! 

Q:  How do you celebrate Advent in this busy season? 

A:  Once we get into December, we don't launch any new products. We concentrate on fulfilling lots of orders and getting things out. It might be busier for our employees, but I intentionally keep things less busy for me. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! 

You can watch our highlight about what we do for Advent. I do something really simple for the boys in the morning and at night we set aside 20 minutes to light a candle and read a story. Serving and loving the Lord comes first, so if we can’t make time for this simple routine, it means we need to scale back our business. 

Q: What books would you recommend to learn about starting a business?

A: I haven’t ever read a business book. I did skim a few chapters of The E-Myth, but I didn’t find anything relevant to my business. Honestly, a lot of my business advice has just come from praying for guidance. Reading a big book makes me feel overwhelmed with tons of things I should be doing. I just keep praying that the Lord will establish my next step. He’s always brought exactly what I’ve needed into my life. 

(Robert) I’ve read a few business books, but it depends on what you’re looking for. For good practical start-up advice, I would go to blog posts or articles. The internet is the great equalizer of our age. You can monetize absolutely anything, but make sure you’re doing something you love. 

Q: What is your favorite thing about raising boys? 

A: I love wrestling and roughhousing! Katie sometimes has to leave the room because it makes her so uncomfortable. The boys think it’s so fun being thrown onto the trampoline and having pillow fights. This is my favorite! They love being outside and adventuring. And they’re not super dramatic or emotional either. I’m in awe of moms who have girls and seem to have a lot more to cope with! Our boys are so quick to forgive, easy to talk to. They don’t hold grudges. I’m learning a lot from my boys! 

Q: What things did you disagree on in your marriage and how did you work things out? 

A: We parent differently although I do think this is how the Lord created us - that mothers and fathers should be different. There are times I’ll want to talk with Robert about he handled a parenting moment, and vice versa. That doesn’t always go super well in the moment to be honest! We’re still working on how to appropriately handle that.

I think that in any disagreement, just remembering that we’re on the same team with the same goal is so important. Even if we blow it the first time, we’re able to re-have a lot of conversations and they’re better the second time. We’re both opinionated and we have to make room for one another. Remember that you love your spouse more than whatever you’re disagreeing about. A disagreement is an opportunity to grow together and to practice loving your spouse more.

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Books for Christian Newlyweds

I've been getting a lot of requests for best marriage books, specifically for engaged couples and newlyweds, so I thought I'd compile a list here. I haven't read a few of these, but included them due to your strong recommendations when I asked on Instagram.

(Click photos for direct links)

1. I read this book before I was married and appreciated how Keller gave me a better perspective of God’s intention for ALL relationships, marriage included. I still think on this quote, ten years later. 

“Within this Christian vision of marriage, here's what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, "I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, 'I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!” 

 2. I really enjoy Francis Chan and so appreciated the eternal perspective on marriage he presented here. This book helped me see our marriage as teamwork, moving towards The Kingdom, together. 

“Many people will tell you to focus on your marriage, to focus on each other; but we discovered that focusing on God’s mission made our marriage amazing.”

3. I read this one early on in our marriage, and it radically shifted the way I viewed the purpose of marriage.  This book challenged me in the best ways. I would give this to any engaged couple as required reading.

“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

4. I'm sure you all have heard of "love languages" before- How we show and receive love. There are five “languages” the author suggests: Quality Time, Service, Gifts, Words of Affirmation, and Physical Touch. Robert and I are very different, (he is words of affirmation and physical touch; and I am acts of service and gift), but we are able to love one another well through this book's wisdom. If you feel like your spouse doesn’t appreciate your efforts to show love to them, this is a must-read.

5. I haven't read this book, but I respect the Bethke's and have heard nothing but good things about their wisdom here. My guess is that this a very approachable, light book on marriage that combats what our culture describes marriage as. 

6. Many of you suggested this one and I'm a big fan of Paul David Tripp. I'm going to add it to my list! 

 

7. Far too often, books on the topic of sex are left off of Christian marriage lists. This one was so helpful to me as a newlywed! It helped me make the shift from "sex is not okay" to "it's great!" and helped me troubleshoot along the way.

8. Here's another great one! And don't feel like you have to cram all these in within your first year of marriage. I try to read one marriage book a year to keep my heart gospel-focused. 

 

9. (Okay, I added one more book after I designed the graphic for this post. Ha!) I haven't read this one, but it's come highly recommended, too. It's written specifically to wives, and it doesn’t shy away from the tough topics.

In addition to books, I thought I'd share a few jewelry pieces I'd recommend as you pray over your marriage and love your spouse:

1. The Knot Necklace

2. The Portion Necklace

3. The Servant Necklace

4. The Complete Necklace

5. The Trio Necklace

6. The Essential Necklace

7. The Surrender Necklace 

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A Day in the Life: Mom of Three + Business Owner

Every day looks a little different, but here's a typical Wednesday or Friday around our house. I have three boys (5, 2, 5mo) and a growing business! 

6:00 Alarm goes off. I get up, put on work out clothes, and feed the cat.

6:10 Sit down in my cozy chair to spend time with the Lord. You can read my details of a typical "quiet time" here!

Here are the prayer pages I use. 

7:00 I put away dishes and prep breakfast for the boys if I have an extra moment. 

7:15 The boys usually start waking up around this time. I try to feed my youngest his bottle before I let the other two out of their rooms so he isn't too distracted to eat. 

7:30 Breakfast for the boys. We usually do oatmeal and a protein smoothie on weekdays. We also spend this time reading a devotion, saying a memory verse, etc

Lately, we've been talking about a verse from The Fighter Pack and it's been so good for our home's atmosphere. 

8:00 Clean up the kitchen (the boys are in charge of cleaning where they sat), start a load of laundry, get everyone dressed 

8:15 Exercise. I do a 30 minute BeachBody workout while the boys play around me. 

8:45 Take a quick shower and get ready for the day. I usually put my 2 year old in the bathroom with me so I can keep track of him ;) 

9:00-11:00 My youngest goes down for his morning nap and I play with the older two. Sometimes we meet a friend or go to the playground (my husband works from home so he's there with the baby); other times we play in our yard or do puzzles and play dough inside. 

Somewhere in there, I'll make my protein smoothie. You can read about why I do intermittent fasting here if you're curious. 

11:30 Lunch time! My youngest is up and we're all in the kitchen together. Sometimes I read to the boys while they eat and other times I'm folding laundry or posting on Instagram and answering messages.

12:00-1:00 The boys play in the playroom while I get a few things done. I do anything from meal planning, to cleaning a bathroom to switching their closets to the next season. 

1:00-3:00 The boys nap (or have quiet time in their rooms) and I work! Usually, I share on Instagram stories during this time and squeeze in lunch, too. 

3:00 Everyone is up. We snack, read, play outside, etc. 

4:30 The day's orders are packaged and my husband is usually done working so we all pile into the car to drive to the post office. It's nice to get out of the house if I haven't done so that day! 

5:00 I work on dinner while my husband wrestles with the boys to get some energy out. We eat around 5:30. 

6:00-7:00 Playtime

7:00-7:30 Bedtime! Quick baths, pajamas, and a few books in bed.

7:30-8:30 Robert and I snuggle up on the couch to watch a show or catch up from the day. 

8:30-9:15 I head to our room to read or journal as I unwind. 

9:30 Asleep! If I don't get to bed around this time, I won't be ready to wake up at 6:00am the next morning. Sometimes, it's hard to make myself close a book or get off the couch but it's always worth it. 

I shared my entire Day in the Life over on IG stories so be sure to check it out here

 

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A Q&A with Katie and Robert on Christian Marriage

I asked the Dear Mushka Instagram community for questions for a Q&A the other day and received so many about marriage! Robert and I answered them over on my stories, which you can find here or simply read below.

In short, we are two simple people that God has brought together for His glory. We are not perfect and this is not a perfect marriage. The Lord constantly keeps us humble and real.

What’s our dating story?

Robert and I met in college. I had recently broken up with the boyfriend I had followed to college and we met at the college ministry we were a part of. We talked for the first time at a football game. I wanted to talk to him to make another boy jealous - yes, I was 19 and not very smart! We started talking and really enjoyed our conversation so we decided to meet up another time.

We didn’t officially start dating for a few months because I was silly and wanted to wait. We dated for a while and broke up just before Valentine’s Day. But I just knew we’d get married. I don’t know why, but I was pretty confident.

Robert was a new believer and really needed some time to grow. I knew we had issues to work on and was grateful for the time apart to grow. A few months later he came back around and our relationship did a complete 180! We dated for a few months, got engaged and married in 2010.

I love that our dating story is beautifully imperfect, just like us!

How do you know who you are supposed to marry? Is the right spouse just about finding someone who loves the Lord?

It’s more than just finding someone who loves the Lord. Love for the Lord is a great starting point but there can be more to it. God can work through all marriages (even if you are married to a non-believer), but if you’re choosing a spouse look for someone who wants to pursue the Lord fully.

Marriage is too hard not to like the person you are married to. There are seasons and you’ve got to fight for what you want to be true. You’ve got to like the person, want to be around them and see the potential in them.

It’s easy for women to come up with a check list for what you want in a spouse and sometimes the Lord can work through that. But ultimately, don’t limit God to what you think you need. God gives us wisdom! He is for marriage and He is for Christian unions and He will lead us to the right person.

I think He gives us peace when it’s a yes and discomfort when it’s not right. This doesn’t mean that the “right person” doesn’t mean you won’t have trial and suffering in your marriage! But the Lord will give you peace and wisdom when you call out for help.

Find someone who’s imperfections you can live with. Don’t count on change. Can we commit to loving the person in front of us and the person they will become?

Marriage is also not the goal of the Christian life! The Lord works through both marriage and singleness. We still feel lonely, angry and sad in marriage. God is our only hope and lasting joy!

Advice for newlyweds?

If there is frequent bickering (not real issues), you might not be having enough sex? God uses it to form real intimacy. Pray for it and work towards loving one another in that way. I received this advice as a newly wed and it was so helpful!

Also, learn one another. It can be through the enneagram, another test or studying one another. Know that you and your spouse are very different people. You’ll give so much more grace when you understand someone else’s why.

Protect what your spouse is walking through. Your husband does not need you to go behind his back about what he is struggling with. If it isn’t a big issues, speak uplifting words about your spouse. Be champions of each other’s sanctification. If you need prayer for your marriage, make it about YOU.

How do you handle differences of opinion on big matters?

Adoption is the biggest difference we’ve ever had. I felt called to adoption and Robert didn’t. In those situations, commit to praying. God isn’t trying to cause discord between the two of you so seek His wisdom. Ask for a heart that’s willing to submit and respect your husband.

Still talk about big decision and as best as you can, don’t move forward until you can agree. Don’t let yourself be resentful at your spouse.

What to do when one person is pursuing God more than the other?

We’ve experienced this in our marriage and it’s important to learn that your relationship with God will look different than your spouse’s. Robert is never going to have lifetime goals, prayer journals and do everything that I do in my quiet time with the Lord.

Make sure you are giving grace for a person to grow differently than you. Different isn’t wrong or less then.

No man has ever been nagged into pursuing the Lord. You can pray in times of need for your spouse - pray for wisdom and guidance and strength until your spouse is ready to pursue the Lord again. That’s what you do!

Everything is an opportunity to humble yourself and rely on the Lord. Make the goal for everyone to love God more (all of us need to love Him more) because He is worthy of our praise and love!

I hope this was helpful, to hear two very real people talking about marriage! You can catch the video of Robert and I discussing our marriage here. Follow along on Instagram where we post our monthly Q&A’s, answering all of your questions.

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My Go-To Parenting Books

I love to read and have always found a wealth of helpful knowledge and wisdom in books. Here are my go-tos when it comes, specifically, to raising up children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. 

(Click photos for a direct link)

1. The Bible. And I don't say this lightly! If you are longing for wisdom on how to raise children who know and love God, prioritize your own knowledge and love of the Lord. The only way you can rightly reflect His character is to make a study of it. 

While The Bible doesn't address specific disciplinary issues like entire other books do, it is full of wisdom straight from the heart of God on every issue we could want. Friendships, sibling relationships, telling the truth, handling anger, etc. 

 

2. This is the best parenting book I have ever read, aside from the Bible. It isn't very practical (which drove me nuts at first), but gets to the heart of our role as parent and what it should look like. It radically changed how I see raising children, and is a book I reference often. I can't recommend it more!

“When you think your job is to change your child and you’ve been given the power to do it, your parenting will tend to be demanding , aggressive, threatening, and focused on rules and punishments. In this kind of parenting you are working to make your children into something rather than working to help them to see something and seek something. In this form of parenting, it is all about you and your children, rather than you being an agent of what only God can do in your children. Your hope is that you will exercise the right power, at the right time, and in the right way so change in your children will result. That process is profoundly different than working to be a useful tool in the hands of a God of glorious transforming grace, who alone is your hope and the hope of your children.” 
― Paul David Tripp

 

3. This was the first book I read that encouraged me to use scripture to guide the little hearts in my home. It was such an obvious answer, but I'd never seen it done before! The book is practical with lots of examples, and packed with scripture. 

(We have a new product coming this Fall that you'll love if you loved this book!)

 

4. I've made it a point to ask great parents what helped them as they learned to instruct their children, and they almost always include this book as one of the most beneficial tools. And after reading it, I see why! 

It's written by Christians and has scripture inside, but is incredibly practical. It walks through parenting with consequences instead of threats, shame, etc and has lots of examples to learn from. I'm having my husband read it now! 

 

5. This book is similar to the one above. It's recommended over and over again, is full of practical examples, and is packed with wisdom from people who really understand the way children think.

There were a few chapters/examples in this book that I put into action and immediately saw changes from. It's excellent! 

 

6. Sally Clarkson has been a spiritual mother to me through her writing, and it all started with this book. Its goal is similar to no.2 on this list, getting to the real heart and purpose of motherhood. She draws you into her home and experiences as a mother, encouraging and motivating you do live each day intentionally. 

“My calling as a mother is the same as any other Christian’s: to fulfill God’s will for our lives and to glorify him. This means I am to follow the Lord’s design for my marriage—cleaving to my husband, supporting him, honoring him, loving him as my own flesh. I am to be a careful steward of the world in which I live. I am to seek opportunities to bring God’s message of redemption to others, to make full use of the gifts and talents he has placed in my life to bring him glory and further his kingdom. And I am to delight in him and worship him and praise him in whatever circumstance I find myself.” 

 

7. This is another Sally Clarkson book. It's less about discipline and more about a home's God-loving culture, but it encouraged me to be more intentional and consistent in my parenting, so I included it here, too.

 

8. If you have boys, this has been a great read and reference. My heart is wired so differently from the men in my home, I need to know how they operate and think! This one is broken up into age sections so I've read a few chapters and will continue to go back to it as my boys get older. So helpful!

 

9. I haven't read this yet, but the Risen Motherhood podcast has been such a helpful resource for me (and so many others!) in motherhood, I know the book will be just as lovely. I'm so grateful for other women walking this road alongside me, longing to glorify Christ in all we do. 

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Our Family Trip to 30A

I've been vacationing to Florida basically every year since I was little. My family used to do Destin or Panama City, and now we go with Robert's family to the "30A" strip of beaches that runs in between those two big cities.

It's such a fun area- packed with good places to eat, bike paths for traveling the few miles between beach after beach, and lots of memories. 

The boys (ages 4, 2, 3 months) did so well in the car! We left early in the morning when we knew our youngest would be most apt to take a good nap. For the other two, I packed them each a "car bag" with a few car activities and snacks. We also checked out library books that they weren't allowed to look at until we were traveling. (The bags also had a change of clothes inside because #reallife). After they enjoyed the car activities for a few hours, they were allowed to watch a movie on the iPad.

A few things in their bags: 

This, this, this (non messy creativity), and this

Our condo room (here!) wasn't ready when we got there so we spent a few hours at The Hub. It's a really cool area, with lots of walk-up places to grab food, comfy seating, shopping, and most importantly astroturf for wiggly kids to run around on. We got lunch, ice cream, and lots of energy out! 

Everyday, we ate breakfast and hung out in the condo for a few hours while our littlest guy took a morning nap. Then we headed to the beach for a few hours, where we spent the majority of the time in the ocean... and eating snacks/lunch. Around 1, we'd come inside for naps/ quiet time. Robert got a few hours of work in and I enjoyed reading (and napping, too!) Then, more beach time until the boys were absolutely ready for bed. 6:30pm on the beach is the best time, we didn't want to miss it! 

I packed the boys' lunches and dinners in these boxes to make mealtimes easy. I didn't cook dinner once- they loved eating sandwiches, fruit, and goldfish on the beach every day. 

Robert and I went out twice (below) and otherwise ate simple foods, too. It was really nice to take a cooking break for a week :)

We were there over the 4th of July, which is fun. Almost every beach from Destin to Panama City has their own firework show so you can sit on the beach (or condo patio) and watch them all go off. Individuals do their own shows on the beach, too! 

On my birthday, Robert and I went on a date to la Crema- it's an excellent tapas and chocolates restaurant in Rosemary Beach. I'm already excited to go back next year ha! Another night, we went out with family to George's. It gets really crowded, especially towards the end of the week, so plan to go early! 



On the last night, we played in the ocean until everyone was completely prune-y and ate pizza on the beach. 

It was such a special week, and proof that you can travel (albeit, just a few states away) with three little children. Of course, we were all exhausted at the end but memories were made and we loved being together for a solid week!

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Our Goals for Summer

Every Summer, I choose a few skill activities for each of my children to work on and a heart "theme" for us to focus on as a family. This helps keeps me intentional as I mother and also gives direction to our days. 

Here's what this Summer looks like: 

Skill Activities for my boys

Do a puzzle alone and with joy 

Be able to "read" quietly for 20 minutes (snacks help this)

Write all letters (for my 4 year old, just something to work towards)

Put shoes on and off by himself (for my 2 year old)

Ride bike without training wheels (for my 4 year old... check!)

Swim without floats (for my 4 year old)

Learn to use words before screaming (for my 2 year old, ha!)

 

Heart Focus for our family: Prayer! 

We're memorizing The Lord's Prayer (to the tune of Barney's "I love you") and spending meal times talking about what the words mean. 

We're also learning to be quick to ask for God's help as we exhibit fruits of the Spirit, trusting in His capabilities instead of our own (failing) strength. 

We reference this art print frequently, which also helps the boys learn their letters. I'll say "which fruit should we pray for in this scenario with your brother" and one of them will say "love!" or whatever and then they'll find it on the print and maybe even write out the word or trace it. 

These are simple goals, but they're effective and so helpful as we long to make Christ's name great in our home and beyond. 

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How we meal plan (and your ideas, too!)

Over the years, I've found that meal planning is easiest for my family when I choose a theme for each night of the week. It limits my choices, preventing me from decision fatigue, and also lets my family know what to expect. 

This Summer, our schedule looks like this: 

M: Grill Night- usually chicken or steak with veggies and brown rice 

T: Mexican Night- tacos, quesadillas, burrito bowls with chips and salsa or guacamole, rice, and/or a corn dish 

W: Pasta Night- spaghetti or some other pasta with added chicken and a salad

Th: Breakfast Night- eggs, bacon, and waffles, biscuits, french toast, etc

F: Leftovers or Pizza

S: Out- either our date night or a family night to chipotle

S: Hotdogs from church. Alternative is sandwiches. 

As the seasons change, we'll adjust this to be more appropriate!

·

I asked you all on Instagram for some other night themes; here's a big list for us to all reference!

  • Grill 
  • Mexican
  • Pasta
  • Italian
  • Breakfast
  • Leftovers
  • Pizza
  • Sandwiches
  • Salad
  • One Sheet Pan
  • Crock Pot/ Instant Pot
  • Soup
  • Casserole
  • Asian
  • Bowl Dinner
  • Fish
  • Panini
  • Baked Potato Bar
  • Meatless Meal
  • "Hodge Podge" where you throw it all together from what you have
  • Charcuterie Board (meat, cheese, fruit, nuts, veggies) on a warm night! 
  • Different ethnicity every week to teach children about a different culture 
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Sleep Training (and a Snoo Review)

I frequently get asked how I run a small business and have little children; one of my most common responses is that we sleep train. By that I mean, early on we help our children learn how to fall asleep in their own beds at specific times of day. 

The two books I have used to help me learn are Baby Wise & Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I've referenced them time and time again with all three of our boys! If you don't have them, I highly recommend. I also hear Taking Cara Babies is an excellent resource. 

Here are things we do: 

1. Right away, we begin helping our child learn to eat every three hours. At the beginning, they may need to eat every 2-2.5 hours. That's okay! But slowly, we begin to implement a 3 hour feeding schedule. 

For us, it's 7:00am, 10:00am, 1:00pm, 4:00pm, 7:00pm, 10:00pm (and the nighttime feedings as they wake up). 

This is important for two reasons. First, it helps them get enough food in during the day. We know they're getting x amount of ounces every three hours; eventually their full bellies allow them to drop nighttime feedings. Second, it keeps them from sleeping longer than 3 hours at a time. This helps them learn that days are for naps, nights are for longer stretches of sleep. 

2. We work on an eat-play-sleep routine. This helps them learn to fall asleep on their own instead of by being fed every time. When they're itty bitty, this is hard! Sometimes they fall asleep and there's nothing you can do. But day by day, we feed them, "play" (change their diaper, bath, tummy time, quality time with mama, etc), and then lay them down for a nap as soon as they begin to yawn. 

It's also helpful because it takes the guess work out of what they need. If they ate three hours ago and are crying, they're hungry. If they've been awake over an hour and start to fuss, it's probably because they're tired. 

3. We prioritize good naps. Most babies need 1.5-2 hour naps between feedings (until 3-4 months of age when they begin to establish a morning nap and an afternoon nap or two). This is important because sleep begets sleep with little ones- if they're overly tired, they won't nap well during the day or sleep well at night. 

Between 4-6 weeks of age, we begin helping them learn to fall asleep in their own bed. So they eat, "play", and then get swaddled for a nap around an hour after they last woke up. 

At the beginning, some babies have a hard time falling asleep without you nearby. If this is the case (and it has been to some extent for all three of our boys) we use a mild "cry it out" method. We lay them down drowsy but awake. If they cry, we let them do so for 10 minutes and then come in to rub their back, burp them, and try again. At the beginning, you may spend a whole nap time block doing this but don't worry- they'll get it soon! 

They also may fall asleep quickly but wake up after a 45 minute nap- especially when the morning and afternoon nap is established (which can be longer than a 6 week old's nap). This is common because babies have 45 minute sleep cycles. They have to put themselves back to sleep for a full nap! We use the same 10 minute technique here, too.

Our oldest son was particularly stubborn here, but I knew he needed more sleep because he was waking up crying instead of happy. At 4 months, we let him cry for 30 minutes to learn to put himself back to sleep. It felt like the longest three days as I listened to him cry, but he learned quickly and begin sleeping for 2 hours + waking up so happy! 

4. We establish a consistent wake up time. For us, it's 7:00am. This is important because is sets up the rest of your day's schedule. If you start your day differently every day, you're constantly doing the math to see when they need to eat next. That's chaotic and stressful! The goal is less work, not more. It also helps their biological clocks learn when your family wakes up in the morning.

Sometimes you have to do a little finagling when they're still waking up in the night. For example, if our 6 week old wakes up to eat at 5:00am, technically he wouldn't be ready to eat again until 8:00am. Instead, I wake him up at 7:00am; if he doesn't take a full feeding that's okay. We're still back on schedule and ready to begin our day.

Alternatively, if he wakes up at 6:15am and seems wide awake, I may count that as our first feeding of the day and see if he can wait until 9:30 to eat again (instead of 9:15 or 10:00). At the next feeding, he may make it to 1:00, which puts us back on schedule, too. 

5. We pray. Because books and method are good, but only God knows what our children need. He promises to bring us counsel (Psalm 32:8), and longs to have us rely on Him for everything. Parenting is no different!

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We decided to try The Snoo, normally $1,300, when I learned you could rent it for about $3.50 a day. It's basically a smart swing + sound machine with a built in swaddle, doing 3 of the 5 "S's" for you. While it isn't a miracle worker, I do think it has been worth every penny this third time around. It has served as an extra set of hands, I think, essentially being the one to check in on him every ten minutes as he learns to nap or fall back asleep after a nighttime feeding. 

If we were at the beginning stages of having children, I'd find the money to buy one. We've been really pleased! You use it for around 6 months and then use the weaning feature (if necessary) to help them transition to a crib. 

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