REAL TALK WITH REAL MOMS ON CHORES

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When I was filling out Elle's application for pre-school it asked, "What chores and responsibilities does your child have at home?" She was three at the time, and I remember thinking to myself, "Are kids even supposed to have chores at three years old?" 

Turns out that I was a little late to the party when it came to instilingl small amounts of independence in her. With Elle being my first and only child for three years, I often would put her clothes on, buckle her seat, put the dishes in the sink for her simply because it was faster and I didn't mind. What I didn't realize is that those small things were things she could do with me, and that allowing her to do them (though it took longer) was a great way to help her prepare for school.

With my second child, Levi, I had an opportunity to learn from that mistake and start introducing a bit more independence early on. As part of the Real Mom Series, I thought I would share the responsibilities and chores Levi and Elle have to give other moms age appropriate ideas of how to incorporate them into their lives.

LEVI - 2 yrs old
- Puts plate in the sink
- Puts dirty laundry in the laundry room
- Helps put toys away

ELLE - 5 yrs old
- Picks out her clothes for school
- Puts on her own clothes and shoes
- Puts dirty clothes in the laundry basket
- Sets her place setting
- Puts dirty dishes in sink
- Brushes her teeth
- Picks up her toys and room
- Stays in bed until 6:30am

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We don't have any kind of reward system for doing these things. Of course, verbal appreciation and celebrating how they show independence is involved, but we didn't want to implement a reward system for age appropriate expectations. However, when they go above and beyond what they are expected to do we definitely reward that. 

I'd love to hear other ways you incorporate responsibilities and chores. Please share in the comments, and be sure to check out how these other moms handle responsibilities with their kids: The Effortless Chic, Hey Mama Co., The Life Styled, Design Addict, Design for Mankind

Modern Nursery Decor From Walmart

This post is sponsored by Walmart and contains affiliate links. 

Designing a nursery is like creating a room for a surprise guest and yourself at the same time. Often times I find myself a bit more experimental with decor in a nursery space because you don't have to worry about rooms flowing together and the durability of furniture (minus the crib). I focus on whether the space will be an enjoyable spot for mom and baby to bond and sleep. I partnered with Walmart to share with you a modern nursery design using some of their beautiful and affordable products. 

We bought our crib from Walmart five years ago. It has hosted countless dreams of both our kiddos and provided safety at the same time. If I were to select a new crib for my little ones I would pick this light wood Babyletto Gelato 4-in-1 Convertible Crib. Paired with this bold blue and white rug creates a beautiful contrast that's gender neutral as well. 

Black and white will never go out of style. It's modern and classic, and this black and white crib bedding by Babyletto, with neutral, functional decor items such as storage baskets, wood blocks, sheepskin pillows and a macrame planter creates a simple and functional space for mom and baby.

Every baby room needs a rocker, and I loved that I saw such an iconic design on Walmart.com. If I saw this adorable sheep sitting in it I definitely would have to take a load off. I use my rocker every day with Levi, and he is two years old next month. I think finding the right chair for your space is a necessity. Walmart has a great selection. 

Grab all of the items below, and be sure to check out Walmart.com for other decor items for your baby.

REVIVE & HELPING HANDS

This is a face of pure joy, of sweet dreams, of a safe home, of no worries. This is Henry, the son of my best friend, and a couple days ago he graduated from a toddler bed to a "big boy" bed with a comfy Revive Mattress from Living Spaces. I got to play auntie and give him a mattress, and I get to giveaway two mattresses (one to a blog reader and one to their friend). EEEE!

For Henry, I selected the R2 mattress which has 11.5" foot of foam (gel foam, memory foam, contour foam and orthopedic support). This mattress is different than other ones out there because it has a .5" cooling fabric cover and copper gel foam. That's really important when Arizona nights can be upwards of 90 degrees.

Good sleep is priceless and crucial to growth and development for kids. In fact 10-13 hours of sleep is recommended for 3-5 year olds. If you're you going to spend half of your day in bed it should be a good one, right? I'm so glad I can help Henry have the best sleep of his dreams. I am also excited to spread the news that Living Spaces is helping foster care families and foster children in Arizona have same quality of sleep as Henry. Living Spaces has partnered with Arizona Helping Hands, and from June 26th - July16th, when you purchase a Premium Revive Mattress Set from a Revive Sleep Center in Arizona, a child in foster care will receive a free Revive Twin Mattress and Foundation. How amazing is that?!

Revive mattresses start at $450. You can get the full scoop and choose the right firmness (firm, medium, plush) and the size online. The mattress is shipped straight to your door in a box. I recommend opening up the box once you are in the bedroom and place it on your bed. Even your pets will come running. 

If you're interested in winning your own Revive mattress of your choice, check out the steps below.

  • Between 12:01am PT June 26, 2017 and 11:59pm PT July 16, 2017, readers must follow @revivebyls on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/revivebyls and comment on the “Buy one Give One” image posted to the @revivebyls Instagram page on June 26, 2017 by tagging @avestyles and one (1) Instagram friend that they would like to win with. No other comments besides the name tags are required for entry. By entering the giveaway you are agreeing to follow @revivebyls on Instagram for the duration of the Giveaway. 

Alternative Method of Entry (“AMOE”):
Mail your name, phone number, address, and the name of the friend you’d like to win with you to:
Attn: Nikki Partise, Marketing Dept.
Living Spaces
14501 Artesia Blvd.
La Mirada CA 90638

  • Eligibility: The Promotion is open only to permanent, legal residents legally residing in the U.S. from June 28-July 16, 2017. Promotional card is eligible for use in store only and cannot be used at livingspaces.com. Entrants must be at least 18 years of age. Employees of Living Spaces, Alexandra Evjen, and their immediate family members (defined as spouses and biological, adoptive or step-parents, legal guardians, children, siblings, or grandparents, their respective spouses and any dependent under federal income tax law) or household members are not eligible to participate in the Promotion. Void where prohibited by law. All applicable federal, state and local laws apply.

  • You can read the full terms and conditions of the contest here:

This post is sponsored by Living Spaces, product was given as payment, Photos by Rennai Hoefer; 

REAL TALK REAL MOMS: FINDING YOUR CONFIDENCE

I never had to think about finding confidence in being a friend, a daughter or a spouse, but for some reason, finding confidence when I assumed the role of a mother was a struggle in the beginning. I deeply understood that my children were 100% dependent upon me to provide for their needs. Talk about intimidating! Social media pressure, peer pressure and familial pressure are much smaller fish compared to the reality of the responsibility of parenthood. And now more than ever, we are aware that our parenting choices condition our children to a certain extent and have lasting effects on their development (thank you science and research). So, how have I found confidence in my parenting along the way? Well, it's a combination of things:

1. My confidence isn't in myself, but in God. I believe that my children are a gift from God, created by God for His purposes. My children are really God's children entrusted to me to nurture them in the wisdom and love of Him. I try my best, I pray for my kids and at the end of the day I know that God loves them even more than I do (I can hardly imagine that). That gives me so much peace. 

2. I lean on God for wisdom in knowing my kids and what's best for them. There are many days where I feel like I don't know how to navigate my daughter's emotions or my son's health battles, but I believe that the discernment I have (that gut intuition) is really God guiding my heart and mind to the right decisions for my kids. There's nothing too small that I pray for either...from praying my kids would take naps to praying we would find the right doctors to choosing a school, I surrender it all. That, of course, doesn't mean I don't make a ton of mistakes because I sure make a lot of those. But I also know that when I make mistakes it's because I'm acting out of a bad place or not really thinking with wisdom. And, I also know that there is forgiveness and grace for me with the mistakes I made because of my beliefs. Knowing that makes me feel free and confident whereas aiming for perfectionism fills me with anxiety and fear. 

3. I surround myself with encouraging mothers. I have dear friends with kids that are the same age as mine and women who are now grandmothers. They are all supportive and encouraging people that have been in my shoes, and that's a comfort. They don't judge me when I share my mistakes, but they also don't let me keep making them. They encourage me through it, and I do the same for them (at least I'd like to think so). 

4. I set up boundaries with people that shame me for my choices. I'm always open to hearing feedback from people on other ways to approach problems or struggles. But, if I find people that continue to voice their opposing opinion over and over and over again in a shaming, passive aggressive or condescending way I set up a boundary. This has been a challenge for me, and I'm still trying to navigate it. Something that has helped is visualizing a rope surrounding me and creating a physical barrier that they cannot cross. The people that support me are on the inside of the circle and the others that don't are on the outside. Honestly, it helps me feel more free as I parent and make choices when I'm temped to people please. 

5. I remember that no parent has it 100% figured out and every child is different. I have especially found this to be true after having a second child and realizing what worked for Elle doesn't always work for Levi. Just knowing that alone has made me take everything parents say with a grain of salt. What works for their kid isn't always what is going to work for mine. At the end of the day, I just have to do what works for my family.

6. If my kids make bad choices that doesn't mean I'm a bad parent. We cannot control our children. We can guide them the best that we can, but I cannot make Elle's choices for her. So, when she makes bad choices I try to remember the blame isn't all on me. Of course, I try to work with her on making the right ones for the future, but coming to this realization earlier than later is vital to holding confidence as a parent. I know many mothers that deal with toxic shame when their child has turned to drugs or made other unfortunate decisions, and that shame can eat at you far beyond confidence as a parent but as a person all together The only thing you can control is yourself. That's it. And all you can do is your best. That's it. Surrender the rest. 

I would love to hear what has helped you find your confidence as a parent, and be sure to read thoughts from other mamas in this series: The Effortless Chic, Design for Mankind, A Daily Something; The Fresh Exchange, The Sweetest Occasion, Apartment 34, Oh Lovely Day, Design Addict Mom, The LIfe Styled 

Photos by Rennai Hoefer

END THE SCREEN TIME BATTLE

Raising your kids in the 21st century means that you will eventually have to confront how to handle technology in your home and answer questions such as, "Should my kid have an iPad? How much T.V. should they watch? Which shows are appropriate for their age?" etc. There are many thoughts on this issue, but one thing that we can all agree on is that at some point kids will need to learn how to use tablets and computers and learn how to be responsible with their usage. It's inevitable. 

Ryan and I both have jobs that rely on the latest apps and technology. You could say that way are early adapters. In fact, much of our home is automated using things like nest, Google Home, Alexa, Sonos and more. Our belief is that interacting with technology at an early age can greatly benefit their development and literacy, but it all depends on finding the right apps, the right shows and being a part of their screen time. 

We have an iPad that our kids use. It's password protected and it's monitored. They are never allowed to be alone with an iPad and they must ask permission. They also know their way around Alexa and Google Home, so at any given time you can find them asking to play music. Technology is something that they have come to love as well. 

Some of the apps that we love for Elle (age 4.5) in particular are:

- The OSMO app. It's ground-breaking technology that allows kids to use their creativity and fine-motor skills to draw, write and even code. What they create on the white pad is then brought to life by the app in real time and put into a story. It's incredible, and it's something Elle begs to do all of the time. 

- Monkey Preschool Lunch Box is another app that Elle started using at 3 years old. It really helped her learn shapes and colors. At the completion of every round you get to collect a sticker. That was always Elle's favorite part. 

- Bible for Kids app. It's an audio book for kids that reads to them Bible stories along with animation. It asks questions at the end of each story to help with reading comprehension as well. We love doing this together. 

- Infant Zoo is an app that both of my kids loved when they were babies. It works kind of like a rattle and makes animal noises. It's a very simple app, which is refreshing.

Our kids are allowed to watch T.V. Some days they will watch more than others. We try to keep it to just two hours of screen time day (one hour in the morning and one hour before bed). The shows that we love for our kids are:

- Storybots - a really funny educational show where robots ask big questions like,"Why is the sky blue or where do french fries come from." It's so funny that I love watching it with them. 

- High Five - It's a sing and dance along show that's not animated. Levi loves to dance with it and it's very educational. You can find it on Netflix. 

- Justin Time - An animated show where the character travels back in time and teaches kids about the history of the world and different cultures. 

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I guess you could say there really isn't a battle over the screen. We fully embrace technology and let our kids interact with it throughout their day. There's so much good to be found in letting technology be a part of your kids' lives. 

Photos by Rennai Hoefer