Surviving the Toddler Years

toddler years

If you are a parent, you understand that there are many stages during your child’s development that present challenges.  Babies struggle to communicate, and toddlers tend to communicate things that you’d rather them not.  Volume control also seems to be an issue, or is that just my family with the generations of loud females?……….

I have found that you just have to roll with it, giving yourself and your child grace.  There are going to be moments where you wonder and reminisce what it was like before you had children, and there will be times where you do not want to think of your life without them.  I have heard the saying when raising children, that you have long days and short years.  That did not make sense to me until I had a child.  Although some days are long, it is so worth it!  God has blessed me with this wonderful little life that I am responsible for raising and teaching.  Now that I am staying at home, I do even more of the teaching than before.  Children are a gift from God and so precious.  Sometimes it is hard to remember that on those tough days.

Products – Surviving the Toddler Years

J will be four soon and she has been in this toddler stage for what feels like a long time.  She is growing up so fast!  We have found several products and activities that help keep a little person engaged and the parents sane.  I pray that some of these will be a blessing to you and your family as you too struggle through these “threenager” years.

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Books for Toddlers & Parents


God Gave Us Two

This is such a cute book if you are being blessed with another child and would like to prepare your other child(ren) for what is to come.  I love how the book continues to remind the reader that a child is a blessing.

Super Duper Safety School

I have always struggled with teaching my daughter about strangers.  Sometimes, she may have to talk to a stranger, and this book does an awesome job of teaching kids to discern the difference between a “tricky person” and someone who you can trust.  It is written in kid-friendly language with lots of colorful pictures.  We have read the book a few times and J is already catching on, using the tricky person analogy when we see people in public.

With all of the evil in the world, this book is one I would definitely recommend to all parents of littles.  Child abuse rates are staggering and those statistics reflect only what is reported.  I cringe every time I see a child’s picture on the news with information about where they were last seen.  The pornography industry has created a monster in making sex trafficking a solution.  Especially if you have a daughter, teaching her about “tricky people” is an absolute must!  Speaking of sex, that leads me to my next book suggestion.  Now there’s something you probably did not expect to read in a surviving toddler years blog post!

30 Days of Sex Talks

Okay, I know that this topic may be the farthest from your mind right now as you are arguing with your toddler about the difference between dessert and a meal.  Or explaining why we shouldn’t lick the shopping cart.  But, part of being a parent is preparing your child for the real world.  Even the best parent cannot be (nor should they be!) with their child 24/7.

Eventually, your child is going to grow up and before you know it, they will be experiencing life all on their own.  I have always thought it is never to early to start exposing your child to sex education.  No, I am NOT saying a toddler should know what the act of sex is, but I do want J to know the difference between a boy and a girl.  I have been talking to her for years about nature.  Flowers have boy parts and girl parts.  When mommies and daddies love each other, they have babies.  Etc, etc.  This sets the stage for more in-depth conversations later on.

This book does an amazing job of explaining the body’s anatomy, what private means, good touch vs. bad touch, and many more.  I love that it is all there and I do not have to create the conversation.  There are other versions available also that we plan to purchase as J gets older.  I see what the world is teaching my daughter about sex, but I want her to know what it is really about, through the lens of God.

Loving the Little Years

This book has really helped me gain some perspective when it comes to raising little kids.  I love how humble the author is and how relatable the book is while reading.  She shares looking at raising children in a way that pleases God.  The words that I have read in this book continue to give me pause when I am about to lose it with J.  Children are just little versions of adults trying to figure out how to cope and survive in their world.  A great, easy and relatively short read!


Ahhhh.  Bedtime.  The thought of bedtime and nap time can sometimes calm even the most distraught parent, as long as their child is a sound sleeper.  We have been extremely blessed with J and her sleeping habits even when she was a baby.  I love every minute with her, but sometimes it is nice to do something without having to explain it to someone else.  Curious minds are very questioning!  Here are some products that we use to aid our quiet time routines.

OK to Wake Light up Clock 

This clock has a light on it that comes on at a preset time to notify your child when it is okay to wake up.  There is no sound, so it is not like an alarm clock.  If they are still sleeping, it is not going to wake them up.  This saves the morning, “Mommy, is it time to wake up?” exchange.  I am NOT a morning person, so anything that saves aggravation, is a good investment to me!  If you would like a cheaper alternative and already have a spare light, you could use a light timer for the same purpose.  I would just make sure that the bulb is not so bright that it wakes the child up!

Shrunks Travel Bed

We do a fair amount of traveling for vacations and family gatherings.  This air mattress is designed for children.  We decided to get the larger one so J could use it for a longer period of time.  There is a smaller option available.  This is not your typical air mattress.  There are valleys inside of the bed for tucking sheets into and then an outer part slightly raised to prevent rolling off.  It holds air for days and travels well.

Young Living diffuser

One must-have at home and when traveling is our diffuser!  We love and use Young Living essential oils to support our health and wellness.  I use different combinations of oils and blends to help relax J at bedtime and during quiet time – heaven forbid I call it a nap!  Lavender is probably my favorite.  For more information about oils and Young Living, check out this post.

Play Time       stacking toys

Stacking cups by Green Toys 

I love giving J opportunities for independent play.  That is where problem solving and perseverance come from.  These cups are made in the USA and their volume is accurate.  This means at bath time, when you pour the 1 and 2 cup into the 3 cup, everything matches up.  What a great way to introduce adding and subtracting!  The cups can be challenging for little hands to stack because of the way that their grooves are, but I love giving J a challenge.

Sequence game 

Playing games with a toddler can be challenging.  We found this game online and J loves it.  There are pictures, so no reading is required.  It is very simple to play.  The object is to get four chips in a row.  The child has to match up the animal on their card with the animal on the game board.  Sometimes J forgets to discard and draw another card, but she is getting better.  This is a great game to play with littles, three and older.

Puddle Jumper 

The fear of drowning has to get to every parent.  When I was little, there were arm floaties that we used to call swimmys.  These inflatable tubes would fit onto your arms and keep you afloat.  Although, sometimes, you could tip forward and there was always the fear that they would slip off of the child’s arms.  This puddle jumper connects the arm floaties with a piece in the front.  This prevents the child from tipping forward and keeps them well above the water.  We have used it in the pool and at the beach.  J does not mind putting it on and I love the peace of mind that it gives me until she learns how to swim.


Library programs & Books

We have several libraries around us that offer great programs for little kids.  There is story time and crafts, yoga, etc.  One library has an amazing set-up for parents because all of the little books are in a room with age-appropriate toys.  The child can play while the parent selects some books to check out.  In our quest to go even tinier, I plan to utilize the library to extend J’s book collection.  Plus, it gives her an opportunity to interact with other kids.

Garden of Life probiotics

Probiotics are great for the digestive system for anyone.  I like this brand and J loves the flavor.  This goes beyond yogurt and introduces a multitude of good bacteria into the gut.  We try to eat fermented foods and take probiotics often.  This same brand makes probiotics for adults too.  See the version for men and women.

Potty seat

This potty seat was a God-send when we were in the potty training stages.  There are also built-in seats that are part of the toilet lid if you prefer a compact version you do not have to store.  I like the handle on the back for easy lifting and the shape was a great fit for J when she was younger.  Potty training is very challenging.  You have to wait until the child is ready.


I pray that this information was informative and useful.  Toddlers can be very challenging!  These products and ideas have definitely helped us out along the way.  Blessings to you and your family!

An Introduction to Essential Oils

Young Living Oils are great for your body

What are Essential oils, you ask?  Oils are called the “life blood of the plant.”  I like to think of it this way: if a plant had blood – which it doesn’t – it would be essential oil.  So, think of everything that your blood does for your body: carries nutrients, waste, gases, regulates temperature, hormones, etc.  Plants are a little different, obviously, but that gives you an idea.  Plants survive in the wild, amidst weather and extreme conditions.  Furthermore, essential oils tap into that knowledge and apply it to the human body.

What’s Different about Essential Oils?

Our bodies are a network of natural systems designed by a wonderful Creator.  Since essential oils come from plants – which were also designed by the Creator – they are the most natural option for our bodies.  So, our bodies know exactly what to do with them!

Think about eating an apple.  Your body recognizes all of the components as sugar, vitamins, minerals, etc.  Next, think about eating apple flavored cereal that was created in a food factory.  There are dozens of ingredients that you cannot even pronounce on the box.  If you can’t say them, chances are, your body does not know what to do with them!


Why Young Living Essential Oils?

Young Living is a great company!  They have been in business for over twenty years.  The founders are believers who have spent much of their lives learning about plants, essential oils, growing conditions and educating themselves on health issues.


There are many great recipes online – mostly I find them on Pinterest – for using essential oils to make other household and personal care products.  I would like to make a master list of all of the links for recipes that I have used.  Stay tuned for that.

Here are a few items that I have made using my oils:

IMG_2713 2  Essential oils benefit your health

Bath salts infused with essential oils

Products made with essential oils benefit your healthIMG_2856IMG_2727

IMG_2730Interested in becoming part of a team who loves essential oils?  If so, please research the company.  Just as the oils speak for themselves, so does Young Living.


Want to Become a Member of my Team?

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If you’d like to sign up under me, click here.  Then, you are added to an informative Facebook group and get a diffuser necklace with a sample of an essential oil of your choosing.

Not sure you want to commit yet?  Sign up for a retail account (click the link above and change the Membership Type from “Distributor” to “Customer”).  You are not required to order and will pay retail price, which is one major drawback of this kind of account.

Order Peppermint and/or Lavender essential oil(s).  Those two oils have so many different purposes.  Check out Pinterest.  Lavender supports the Cardiovascular system, emotional balance, skin and nervous system.  Peppermint supports the following systems of the body: digestive, nervous, respiratory, muscular, skeletal and integumentary (skin).

A little background…..

My family signed up over two years ago and we are very pleased!  Young Living’s products are high quality and cost effective in the long run when you price out other alternatives.  We use essential oils every day to support the natural processes in our bodies and we have never felt better!  In addition to lifestyle changes -mostly diet and exercise- essential oils can make a huge impact on how you feel.

Once you sign up and fall in l-o-v-e with essential oils, you will need to think about storing large quantities of oil bottles.  Purchasing storage containers can be expensive, so check out my post about a DIY option.

Organizing Essential Oil Bottles

After being a Young Living distributor for over two years, we have accumulated quite a few bottles of different essential oils.  We ordered cases to store them, but not only was that getting expensive, but the cases have tops.  This makes them great for travel, but not so home-friendly.  The way we were organizing essential oil bottles had to change!

How to store essential oils on the cheap!
We love the case and the cap labels, but are running out of room!

After doing lots of research, the containers that were available to purchase just seemed like too much money.  My husband suggested that we use the containers that the company sends the oils in since they basically cost us nothing extra.  So, we started saving the containers.

Making Your Own Storage / Organization


These are the containers that we were shipped in one month’s large order.  It doesn’t take long to build the collection needed to store a large amount of oils.

Store essential oil bottles using materials that you probably have on hand.

Cut the tubes to the desired height.  Hubby used a hack saw to cut them.  We decided to cut them all the same so the small 5 ml bottles would also fit.  I used a ruler to make the rows straight.

Essential oil bottle storage!

Attach the cut tube pieces to a piece of cardboard that you have already cut.  (Measure how large you want to make it first.)  I started using hot glue to attach, but then I ran out so hubby picked up some tacky glue at Lowe’s and that worked great.  Glue, place, press.  Repeat.

How to store essential oil bottles in the home.

Here’s what it looks like!  This storage system works great for us.  I measured and created this to fit in a drawer in one of our cabinets.  That’s awesome because you can customize this to whatever size you want.

As we get more oils, we re-arrange the bottles.  Our type A personalities require us to store the oils in alphabetical order.  Yes, I re-organize them each time we get a new oil.  It just makes it so much easier to find what you are looking for!  This system makes it easy to change where the bottles are placed.

Storing this amount of bottles can be very challenging.  I hope that you find this helpful!

Learn more about Young Living here.  Read more about essential oils here and here.

Family Fun for Free or on the Cheap

Have you ever noticed that planning activities for a family can be an overwhelming and expensive task?  You have to figure time, gas (if driving), food and cost of whatever you are doing.  It can seem like nothing is free, but there are some easy things that you can plan for free or cheap.  Family fun time is so important!  I feel like the enemy is always trying to distract me with things that aren’t as important as they seem.  Here’s a few activities that my family do on occasion:

Family Fun

Some Ideas:

1. Walk.  This is great for your health because it is exercise and forces you to spend time relationally with each other.  No electronics allowed!  That might make you dizzy anyway.  I have read that walking helps flush out your systems – that’s detoxing – plus it gets you out in the fresh air.  Obviously, this one is weather dependent.  My family loves to walk when the weather cooperates.

2. Build forts inside the house.  Okay this one is a must for building creativity in your kids.  It’s terrible how many hours young children, teens, and adults for that matter spend on screens (myself included!).  Using cushions from furniture, a few chairs, and some sheets, you can easily construct something for kids to play in.  Add something extra by eating a snack in the fort or playing a game.  This is great because it can be done at any time, regardless of the weather.

3. Play outside.  Here’s another one that brings back memories from my childhood.  It seems like kids don’t even know how to play outside anymore.  I remember being outside all day with my younger brother, only coming inside to eat.  We made up our own games which were really silly, but we had fun.  When it’s nice outside, send kids out to play.  It’s not hard to build a sandbox; if you’re not into DIY, you can pick them up pretty cheap.  *Trick: sprinkle cinnamon in the sand to keep the creepy crawlies out.

family fun

4.  Go to the zoo.  Most zoos run specials and smaller town zoos are even free.  Pack a lunch and cameras.  My daughter is only two and we have already been to the zoo dozens of times.  I just read that the Philadelphia Zoo (pictured above) offers free summer admission for educators!  Check it out here.  The site is dated for 2015, so I will keep checking to see if it is updated for this current year.

More Ideas:

5. Look at older pictures/watch old home videos.  I have dozens of scrapbooks I made back when I had time –  before I was a mom.  My daughter loves to look through the pictures and that gives me the perfect opportunity to talk to her about what happened in the pictures.  It also helps her with name recognition of family members.

6. Scavenger hunt.  This one takes some preparation so you need to plan ahead.  My mom was great about doing scavenger hunts when they had a surprise for us.  One year, she sent me & my brother on a scavenger hunt with all of these clues hidden all over the house to tell us that we were going to Disney World.  She picked up Disney / Florida things on the cheap – yard sales, thrift stores, etc.  It is fun and exciting for children.

7. Prepare a meal together.  This would work best with older children.  J loves to be in the kitchen, but she’s not old enough yet to actually help.  I give her kitchen utensils and bowls so she can pretend, but older kids could really be a part of the preparation.  It’s always fun to get everyone in the kitchen, as long as your kitchen is not super tiny!  Prepare, eat, clean up, relax together as a family.  It’s always a good idea to eat together as a family at the dinner table.  Talk about your day; you could even plan your next fun activity as a family.  No electronics!

8. Play games.  Break out the board games!  Candy Land, Monopoly, Checkers, card games (My husband’s family plays Hand & Foot, but this is very difficult for younger children.  Would be great if your children are teens or older!), JengaCootie, etc.  So many families allow themselves to be distant from one another and do not interact.  Have a weekly game night – again, no electronics allowed!

Make Time for Your Family

The main goal for family activities is to do things together.  Be in the present.  Put down the Smart phone.  In fact, put it on silent.  Communicate to others that you will be spending time with your family and allow them to leave a voicemail or text.  Keep the family time sacred!  Be a part of your children’s lives.  Know their friends, dreams, goals, ambitions.  Make sure that they feel that they are important to you and that they matter to God.  Listen to your children with all of your attention, not “listening” while checking your e-mail or texting.  I know that this is extremely difficult in the culture that we live in, but it is super important! Make time for your family.

My Top Ten: Infant

So, here are my favorite products that we used with our first baby.  Some of these are a true investment, meaning they cost a lot more than other products.  We believe in spending more for the quality and do not want to cut corners when safety is an issue.  Keep reading to learn about the best products we love!

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  1. blog pic 2 Phil & Ted’s lobster high chair.  This thing is really expensive, but worth every penny.  J is almost 2 and we can still easily use it….. I think we put her in it starting around 6 months.  It clamps onto the table and is VERY secure.  Trust me, as a first time mom I was a little skeptical about how safe this was until I used it once.  Sold.  Will never be without it again.  It also travels very nicely, folds up & has a carrying case.  It is worth the spurge for my family.
  2. Lotus bed.   Another pricy option compared to the Pack n’ Play.  I especially liked this one because I nursed J and could lay next to her with the side zip closure.  And for all of your worry wart moms like me, there is a secure closure with the zipper so the baby can’t get out.  This is another thing that can be used well past the infant years.  We recently stayed in a hotel and J slept in it without a problem.
  3. Violet singing dog.  This stuffed dog is made by Leapfrog and can be programmed with your child’s name, and you can select what kind of music it plays.  We used to turn this on every time we wanted J to sleep: nap & bedtime.  She is almost 2 now and turns it on herself.  Great for travel also.  We don’t stay anywhere overnight without it.  I was leery about having a mobile for the crib, so we went without and used Violet instead (on the floor in front of the crib when J was really little).  The boyish version’s name is Scout.
  4. Baby Bjorn stool.  I am short.  We purchased a super nice convertible crib and dresser set before J was born.  We were thinking long term and the dresser is very tall.  This stool has been a life saver for me – invest in one if you are vertically challenged also.  When J gets a little older, we plan to use this for in front of the sink.  The other stools seemed to give a little when I stood on them – this stool seems like it could hold hundreds of pounds.   We know that it holds at least 180 pounds.  Another more expensive option, but remember: you often do get what you pay for.
  5. blog pic Puj tub.  My husband and I are not really into clutter (see other posts) and did not want to purchase those infant tubs.  They take up so much room and we did not want to have to think about storing.  This tub fits in the sink and travels amazingly!  We used this until J was old enough to sit up on her own in the sink.
  6. Chicco Keyfit car seat.  Sadly, I was unable to find the travel system including stroller that we used.  This car seat has amazing reviews and really makes transition from car to house / house to car easy on mom and baby.  There were many times that J would fall asleep in the car and we could just unlock the car seat, set the car seat inside, and let her SLEEP.  The base stays in the car and the seat can lock/unlock in place.
  7. Tommee Tippee bottles.  I nursed, but having bottles was a nice option.  We used them when we were out for shorter trips and if we wanted to go out on a date.  When I went back to work, obviously, bottles were needed.  We bought smaller ones for when J was an infant, but I wish we had just purchased these larger ones from the beginning.  These bottles do not leak like Dr. Brown bottles and they are shaped so babies can easily hold them. I’d recommend at least a three pack.  You go through these things like crazy!
  8. Nose Freda.  Okay.  Hear me out on this one.  At first, when hubs showed me this, I was grossed out – which takes a lot because I’m a science teacher and usually enjoy weird things.  But, this thing was the only way we could really clear J’s nose out.  Forget those nasty bulb aspirator things that the hospital gives you.  Talk about germ infested!  How do you clean it?  Anyway, this thing works.  The only snag we have run into is now that J is older, it is hard to keep her still to use this.  We use after squirting saline up her nose.
  9. Dream Baby scissors.  Another struggle we had in the beginning months of bringing J home was trimming her nails.  It is absolutely terrifying when you have to trim those tinny tiny little nails!  These scissors are slightly curved upwards, which is oh-so-helpful.  The traditional nail clippers have a larger portion for you to grab ahold of which is also helpful.  We actually got a different set with the toothbrush that came with three different ones.  It helped when J was teething and helped get her used to putting something like that in her mouth.
  10. Bibs.  I know all of the stores sell those cutesy little fabric bibs that everyone wants to get.  Especially for baby showers.  Don’t you know what that little baby will soon be eating?!  Squash, sweet potatoes, beets.  Those stains were extremely difficult to get out of WHITE fabric bibs.  I wish that we would have found these bibs sooner.  I don’t know if I would have even wasted money on the tiny fabric ones.  Ok, maybe a few when J was really young, but I got plenty of those from friends and family.  These plastic bibs are the stuff.  You can unsnap it so it lays completely flat – awesome for cleaning.
  11. BONUS: Teething necklace.  When J was about 11 months old, I found out about this baltic amber teething necklace that provides natural pain relief.  I was a little skeptical at first and very nervous about putting it on her neck at night.  But, we decided to give it a try.  In between each bead is a knot, so even if the necklace broke, not all of the beads would fall off.  We forgot to put J’s necklace back on one night after her bath and she was up several times crying.  This momma was SOLD on the necklace from that point on.  Now, J likes it so much, we just let her wear it even though she is finished teething.

Everyone’s experience is different, but I know that if we had to start all over, we would definitely purchase all of these items again.  They may be a huge investment upfront, but the time and hassle they will save you is soooooo worth it.  Besides, that little love bug of yours will soon be big & walking around, too busy for so much cuddle time with mommy.  Snuggle while you can!

[Update: We are expecting Baby #2 and plan to use all of these products again – with the exception of the car seat; because of the age difference we wanted to purchase new.  Excited to pull them out of storage!]