Month: April 2016

Experiencing a Season of Down

Life doesn’t always go as planned.  In fact, many times it just does its own thing, despite all of our careful preparation and planning.  And when one thing goes wrong, so does another, and another, and another. Murphy’s Law at its finest.  My husband calls this a season of down.  This has been the story of my life for the past few weeks.  When it rains, it pours.  And in this case, quite literally.

Today, I just need some hope.  I need help uncovering the joy in these temporary trials.

experiencing a season of down, encouragement for mothers


21 Day Reading Challenge

Note: Affiliate links in this 21 Day Reading Challenge help support SodieDooDotch.  Review my disclosure policy at the bottom of the page.

21 Day Reading Challenge

It is time to make a habit of reading with our children.

Lately, reading in the Sutter household has been sporadic at best.  It is such a simple task, and because of that, it seems to get pushed to the bottom of the list.  There are so many other “necessary” things that HAVE to get done.  Laundry.  Dishes.  Grading.

But I am determined to reset this habit in our house, and place it higher on that “to do” list.  So, today, I begin the 21 Day Book Reading Challenge.  It is meant to encourage us busy mommas to slow down, cuddle up with our little ones, enjoy reading again, and share our favorite books with each other.  I hope you join me!  (Scroll to the end for more information on the challenge. Free tracking chart available in the Parenting Toolkit.)


We all know that reading is important in life, but sometimes we forget how many ways this simple act can benefit a child person.  (It’s not just good for our kiddos, it’s good for you too, momma.)

Obviously, reading is strongly associated with language development; and while that is reason enough to promote reading, it is not the only benefit gained by curling up with your little one for story time.

Did you know that the simple act of reading can help a child develop their linguistic, mental, behavioral, academic, and emotional skills?  I don’t know of any other activity that can cultivate all of these areas as completely as reading can.

Let’s look at some of these areas more closely.

  • language development
  • attention span
  • factual information
  • critical thinking skills
    -cause and effect
    -sequential order
    -past, present, future
  • understanding and acceptance of difficult concepts
  • positive attitude towards learning
  • curiosity

*Remember, scroll down for information on the 21 Day Reading Challenge.


In 2003, researchers Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley at the University of Kansas conducted an extensive study on 42 high-income, mid-income, low-income, and welfare families with 1 and 2 year old children.  This study is called “The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3.”  The study revealed, among other things, that children of high-income families are exposed to 30 million more words than children of families on welfare.
To read more about this study, visit the American Federation of Teachers.
To read about another similar study performed by researchers at Stanford University, visit the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The easiest way to close this word gap is reading.

Reading aloud with children provides an opportunity for them to hear the sounds of individual letters, blends, and words as a whole.  As their learning develops, this will progress into letter, blend, and word recognition; sentence structure; paragraph structure; and formatting.


When my children were very young (approximately 6 – 18 months old), their attention span for reading was quite short.  In fact, there were times when we only got through a page or two of Dr. Seuss before calling it quits.  But we did this each night, and as time went on, their ability to pay attention and focus on the story improved.

In a society riddled with hyperactivity diagnoses, perhaps a conscientious push towards reading could help lower the number and severity of these cases.


One of the more obvious, but often overlooked benefits of reading, is that factual information can be learned.  For children, reading can introduce them to exciting information about the world around them.  As they grow, reading (especially nonfiction) can continue to provide them with information about new and different aspects of the world.


In addition to providing facts, reading is especially helpful with honing a child’s critical thinking skills.  Whether it is nonfiction or fiction, reading allows children an opportunity to think.  This develops their understanding of cause and effect, sequential order, past/present/future, etc.

All learning must be scaffolded.  We cannot expect someone to know how to perform an advanced activity without first learning each simple activity that creates it.

For example, a 15-year-old boy does not simply take the keys one day and successfully drive his dad’s truck to school.  He may try to.  But, he is not going to perform the task very skillfully.

This is the same with reading.

We cannot expect a person to perform the higher-level critical thinking skills needed to fully understand the cause-and-effect of To Kill a Mockingbird or analyze the role of government in dystopian novels like The Hunger Games, much less be able to apply this comprehension to real life, unless this person had practice with these skills in a much simpler form.

Say, by reading Little Blue Truck and learning the cause-and-effect of helping others. (That dump truck sure learned his lesson.)  Or by reading Little Blue Truck Leads the Way and hearing how a kind and fair mayor successfully helped his town solve their horrible traffic problems. (So there is a political leader out there who actually cares about what the people say, imagine that.)

Having the opportunity to use your brain to think and learn is a blessing.  Let’s bless our children with this opportunity.


Related to critical thinking skills, reading allows children to be exposed to difficult ideas and concepts in a safe environment.

One of my English classes is currently studying the power of words and the importance of literature for young adults.  We just finished reading The Book Thief.

Yesterday, I asked them to think about the dark subject of this book (the Holocaust) and whether or not young adult literature should expose teenagers to this type of material. The answer was, across the board, a resounding, yes.

Every single one of these high school juniors believes that reading literature that covers sensitive, delicate, or taboo topics is vital to their development.  They argued that teenagers are moving from the innocent world of childhood and into the dirty, messy world of adulthood.  What better way to discover the harsh realities of the world than by reading about them as opposed to experiencing it firsthand?

They also added that, during this particular phase of their lives, many topics are difficult to discuss with an adult, and literature can provide a venue for them to explore the topic safely.  (While this is typically associated with older children/young adults, this can also be helpful for young children who have experienced a traumatic event in their life.)


Something that will significantly help kiddos (and teachers) is having a positive attitude towards learning.  When a child has a large number of positive experiences associated with reading and books, those same feelings just naturally progress to learning in general.  They were able to discover so many wonderful things about the world and people and animals and plants while cuddled up reading with mom and dad, and this discovery will continue on their own as they get older.

Learning becomes something they enjoy and look forward to rather than something that gets pushed to the back-burner of life and all its responsibilities and expectations.


My personal favorite benefit of reading – building curiosity.  Literature is a beautiful method of exploration and, for a person who enjoys reading, it just never stops.  I never finish a book and think to myself, “well, that was good.  Now back to things that really matter, like laundry [insert your own mundane task here].”  Reading almost always sparks an interest in something new.  I become more and more curious about all different aspects of our world.

This is something that can come in handy for a person who may not necessarily enjoy school itself.  I have many students who are highly intelligent, love learning, and are curious about so many interesting things.  They just don’t do school the way the public education system does school.  This doesn’t mean that they won’t be successful.  Their natural curiosity can help guide them to a rewarding, fulfilling life.

21 Day Reading Challenge

Okay, so now that we remember WHY reading is so important, let’s jump right into our 21 Day Reading Challenge!  It doesn’t matter whether your child was born yesterday or if he is 16 years old.  Every person, no matter their age, benefits from being read to aloud.  So, even if your kiddo isn’t so little anymore, get back in the habit of reading and discussing literature with them.

Here is your official invitation:

WHO:  busy mommas and their sweet little ones

WHAT:  take the time to read together (see below for book ideas)

WHEN:  every day, whenever you can (I like reading right before bedtime.) Check out Stacy’s article from Kids Stuff World about moments to introduce reading.

WHERE:  couch, chair, bed, floor, teepee, EVERYWHERE

WHY: see above

bookshelf 1

One of our (many) bookshelves is Reading Challenge ready!

Share your Reading Success Online

Each day, I will post a picture of us reading. I encourage you to do the same. Post a picture of you and your kiddos reading.  Put it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, wherever you want!
If you aren’t already following SodieDooDotch on social media, be sure to do so now, so we can share our Reading Challenge Pictures with each other.
Follow on Instagram, here.
Follow on Twitter, here.
Follow on Facebook, here.

Tag It

When you post your picture, be sure to tag it, so we can promote reading across social media and keep up with each other.
I will be using the following hashtags:

Get Your Children Involved and Motivated

To ensure that our children are part of this process as well, I will be using a sticker tracking chart (provided in the Parenting Toolkit), so they can have a visual of how many days of reading we have done.  I am printing this chart and keeping it on the fridge.  Each day that we read, the boys will get to put a sticker on the chart.  At the end of the 21 days, I will be taking my boys to Half Price Books to let them pick out a new book as a treat for reaching our goal.

Go visit the Parenting Toolkit page to access this printable and use with your own children!

If you aren’t yet a part of the SodieDooDotch community, join us now and get access to the FREE tracking chart printable!  (See form at the end of this post.)

Need some ideas of books to read with your kids?

Here are some of my favorites for young children (ranges from infants – preschool):

Little Blue Truck
Little Blue Truck Leads the Way
The Day the Crayons Quit
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site
Goodnight Cowtown
Letters From Felix
Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me
Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?
Are You My Mother?
Go, Dog, Go!
Proverbs For Young People
On the Night You Were Born
The Little Boy Who Lost His Name
Love You Forever
Green Eggs and Ham
The Tickle Tree

Ideas for early elementary age kiddos:

See this article by Anna Geirge at The Measured Mom. It offers great chapter book options for 1st – 4th graders.

Ideas for upper elementary age kiddos:

A Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom
Harry Potter
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Also, check out this article by Anna Joy at Path Through the Narrow Gate. She offers book options specifically for 10 and 11 year old boys.
And this article by Autumn at It’s Always Autumn. She lists 25 wonderful books for kiddos ages 8-12.


Lots of good stuff here, today!
I know you realize the importance of reading.  Now, join me in making it a priority!

Remember, commit to 21 days of reading with your little ones.
Share your success with us.
Enjoy the time with your family.

I can’t wait to see all of our pictures of what we are reading with our children over the next 3 weeks.  Remember, use
so we can keep up with each other!

See you soon 🙂

P.S. Don’t forget to go print your FREE tracking chart!


**This post was shared on:

Lovely Little Link Party by Bloom Designs

A Little R & R Linky Party

Your Whims Wednesday Link Party by My Girlish Whims


Bedroom Update: The Joy Continues

***NOTE: This post was written and ready to go Monday morning.  It is being posted a day late due to extra unforeseen chaos in our household yesterday morning.  I will let you in on that story tonight.


As you know, my husband has been working on new twin beds for our boys.

Of course, in my world, when one project gets started, it just leads to another and another and another. With the new beds, I decided that we really needed to paint the room as well, which called for repair of the wainscoting, which called for changing out the light switch and outlets, and which now calls for new bedding and decor. It’s a never ending cycle.

But it’s okay, that is my happy place…the world of DIY. I can’t think of a better way to spend my time.

And since I spent nearly my entire weekend painting, I don’t have much for you today. Except a peek into our lives.  This is what happens when a carpenter and painting fanatic collide. (You should see the list of Pinterest projects I have lined up for my husband.)

colby raw bedColby loves his new bed. This was taken Friday afternoon before the marathon painting began.







Saturday, after a t-ball game and playing at the park, we got to work.

paint color before

Walking down memory lane as we paint over the original colors in the room of our first little boy.







We finished painting around 2 in the morning.

braden paint color afterThis is the next morning.  Braden seems to like it. (I told you our sleep schedules have been off for nearly two months. We painted the wall the same color as our bedroom. Maybe it will trick the boys into thinking they are sleeping with us, and they will stay in their own beds all night long. One can hope.)






Here is where we stand now.

two beds afterWalls and beds are painted.






Hopefully, this week we can get the bedroom back in order and begin a new (more successful) sleeping routine.

Our first SodieDooDotch Challenge is coming on Thursday! Be sure to check back then!

An Opportunity for Joy

My boys have not slept through the night in weeks.

It started with a virus back at the end of February.  Two weeks worth of doctor visits, medicine, and sleeping with momma got everybody’s routine out of whack, and it seems that we just can’t get it together again. On top of that Braden, my two-year-old, has decided that his crib is NOT the place to be; he’s much too old for that sort of thing now.  In other words, nighttime is filled with a lot of tears and not so much sleep.

But this is not meant to be a pity party. (Not this time at least.  I’ll save that for another day.)

What I really want to tell you about is this.

headboard, an opportunity for joy

That, my friends, is a new headboard.

With our current lack of bedtime routine coupled with Braden’s refusal to sleep in his crib, we decided that now was as good a time as any to transition these boys to sharing a room.

My handsome handyman hubby is performing a labor of love.  (That’s hard work with sleep deprivation, you know.)  Our boys will each get their own twin bed made by their daddy.  How awesome is that? Something they can keep forever.  Something their own children can sleep in one day.

The only thing better than receiving a gift like this from your dad is getting to be a part of the process and working on it together.

No, the toddlers are not manning the power tools.  But they are watching.  And learning.  And playing.

They get to be around their daddy when he is in his element.  They get to see what he is good at, what brings him joy.  And they get to be a part of that.  This is the best way to learn.

toddler handyman, an opportunity for joy

Colby was able to tinker around with his own little set of tools. He got to spent time outside enjoying the sunshine.  And he watched as his new bed took shape.







Braden even ran outside to join in on the fun.


toddler handyman, an opportunity for joy

Don’t worry.  I paused long enough to snap a picture of this irresistible cuteness and then took the barefoot boy back into the house to get him properly dressed for such activities.







As you can see, not only is our bedtime routine out of whack, our house itself is in a state of disarray.  And it will probably remain that way until this project is through.  (This is the point where I remind myself of that priority list that I made a while back to help myself with balance.)  But as soon as those beds are in place, we will begin working on a new bedtime routine.

This is a phase; we will sleep through the night again at some point.  For now, we are choosing to see the joy in this phase.  A disruption in routine resulted in an opportunity.  An opportunity to create, inspire, nurture curiosity…and simply be together.

Even when our children are young, we can involve them in our activities.  They probably won’t last the entirety of the project.  In fact, they may only last a few minutes.  But it’s including them that is important.  Allow your children to be a part of it.  They will learn so much.

What are some of your daily routines, as well as your passions/hobbies, that you could have your children be a part of?

Note: I apologize for the late Thursday post.  As you can tell, we are a little discombobulated right now.  I will keep you updated on our journey towards a shared bedroom….and the progress of the twin beds.

4 Steps to Finding More Balance

4 steps to finding more balance

As I have been talking with other mommas these past few weeks about the most frustrating part of parenting, the overwhelming majority of us feel like balance is what we are lacking.  Balance in fulfilling everyone’s needs…including our own, which typically get pushed to the bottom of our very long list.

Why is it so hard for us to have balance in our lives?

(From my own observations, it seems that this isn’t as difficult for men.  Maybe I should study my husband.)

As busy moms, we are pulled in so many different directions all the time.  I think most people (with and without children) feel this way actually.  The main difference I see is that, as mothers, our frustrations from not experiencing balance affect our children, the future generation.  It is important that we work towards, think about, and discover ways to achieve more balance in our lives, for everyone’s sake.

For this to happen, for us to achieve some semblance of balance, we must first start with ourselves.  No, not putting our own individual wants/needs at the top of the list, however tempting that may be sometimes.  We must start with ourselves by reflecting on our priorities.

A Story

But before we do that, let me tell you a story.  One day, January 6, 2016 to be exact, I experienced balance.  And it was grand.  So grand, in fact, that I had to write it down.  Here are my exact words, no revising, no editing, not written for an audience…just my words: “Today, I had a taste of this balanced life.  I worked normal hours (7:20-4:00). [As a teacher, this is huge.]  My husband and I picked up our boys from preschool and took them to dinner.  (When you have young children, you eat dinner at a ridiculously early time like 4:30.)  They both began losing their cool by the time we were finishing one hour late, but that’s besides the point.  Once home, we watched a little Curious George (who, by the way, has really good balance) and relaxed.  I spent about 30 minutes planning a writer’s workshop for my IB Junior English class.  Then I rocked my youngest son to sleep, lay in bed with my oldest for 16 songs of his lullaby c.d., and finally sat in my chair to write a little.  This was the most balanced day I have had, oh, probably since this school year started.  However, the time is drawing night, and that 5:00 alarm sure comes early.  And I can hear both my boys moving around in their rooms now doing anything but sleeping.  Okay, balance, I got you for one day.  Don’t be a stranger now, y’hear?”

Have I had days like this since?  Yes.  Here and there.  Not much, but “here and there” is much more than what I had been experiencing previously.  And I believe I can attribute this to one main thing.  I reflected on my priorities.   And then, I set them in stone.

By last May, I knew something had to change.  I could not keep doing everything I had been doing and stay a sane, (semi) normal person.

I (dare I say, We?) have a tendency of making things much harder than they need to be.  You know what I mean?

Turns out, the concept is really very simple.  It’s the doing part that’s hard.

Here are the 4 steps that I do to help balance my life.

Step 1: Prioritize People

First, I organized the people in my life into a list based on priority.

For me, this list looked like:
1-my children
2-my husband
3-the rest of my family
4-my students
6-my colleagues
7-my administrators
8-everyone else

For now, let’s try to avoid getting into the argument about why you should put your husband first and your children second.  I feel that, when you have 2 young children, that whole theory just goes right out the window.  At this point in life, my boys rely on me for survival.  My husband does not.

Sometimes it’s hard for us to look at a list like this and see it without putting it on a scale…favorite at the top, least favorite at the bottom.  Or worse.  Love at the top, hate at the bottom.

That’s not what this is.  I do not hate my colleagues, administrators, or others.  Nor are they my “least favorite.”  They simply have to fall somewhere on my priority list.  And this is where they landed.

Step 2: Prioritize Activities

Once that was done, I made a conscious decision to base my activities around this list.  **This was the most difficult step for me.**

I have a hard time saying no to people.  And that’s exactly what this step boils down to.
“No, I will not be attending that training.”
“No, we won’t be able to make that birthday party.”
“No, I cannot help judge the art show.”
“No, I won’t be sponsoring another student club.”

If it was taking time away from my children, the answer was no.  If it was taking time away from my husband, the answer was no.  If it was taking time away from my family, the answer was no.  If it wasn’t going to directly affect my students and their education, the answer was no.  If it was taking time away that I had for myself (to work on SodieDooDotch, read, research, or paint my toenails), the answer was no.

Obviously, this calls for a balance in and of itself.  Sometimes, some things just have to be done whether or not it infringes upon the time for the people on your priority list.  However, if you have said “no” to the extraneous requests, it’s easier to say “yes” to something that really matters when you need to.

Step 3: “So Be It”

I had to develop a “so be it” mindset.

I knew that some people would be unhappy with me, the answer I was giving, and the decision I was making.  (However, in all honesty, this did not happen nearly as much as I expected.  For the most part, people accepted my answer and went on their way.  They didn’t hate me.  Weird.)

If someone did become unhappy with me, I had to just accept it.  Besides, it left me with more time to spend on the people at the top of my priority list.  Winning.

What actually ended up being harder than developing a “so be it” mindset towards others’ reactions, was developing this mindset towards myself.  I want to do my best, be my best, and help everybody along the way.  When I had to tell somebody no, I would beat myself up about it.  The guilt set in strong.

That’s when I had to separate myself into two parts: the part that was angry at myself for not doing/being my best and the part that had made that priority list.  I think back to my priorities.  Visuals are strong reminders.  I keep pictures of my children, husband, and family at work so that I can remember who comes first.  Then I say “so be it” to that angry part of myself.

**Another thing that helpes me with this step is to ask myself “In five years, will this really have mattered?  Will I even remember it?”  If the answer is no, move on.

Step 4: Experience a Little Balance

I began spending my time differently.

By not making commitments to other responsibilities, I have a little more time in my schedule to spend the way that I wanted.  More quality time spent with children and hubby makes for a happier home.  Making a little time each most days to do what I want/need helps with having to take care of others.

I have to make compromises, though.  My “me time” is usually at night after everyone is in bed or early in the morning before everyone wakes up. (I don’t get as much sleep as I had a few months ago, but I am definitely more positive and better able to help fulfill others’ needs because of that little bit of time to myself.)  During the time I do have, I don’t watch t.v. or mindlessly scroll through Facebook or Instagram.  I have started doing things that bring me real joy…reading, writing, learning.  Time well spent.

The Reality of Balance

So this is where I’m at right now in my life.  Is this process perfect? Absolutely not.  Is my current scenario perfect? Nope.  Is it working? For right now.  Finding balance is not something you can just check off your to-do list.  It’s something that will need constant attention.  For the rest of our lives, but especially for the phase we are in right now with our children.

I don’t get time to myself every day.  I still let that mommy guilt settle in more often than not.  (That’s an issue to tackle another day.)  I still say “yes” to a lot of things that I should be saying “no” to.   I don’t always feel the balance in my life.  But I’m better than I was a year ago.  Progress, my friends.  I take it baby steps at a time.  Each day, I will keep reminding myself of my priority list.

Do you have any tactics that you use to help balance your lives a little better?  For example, I know that planning and organization can go a long way.  Maybe you have an idea you can share with us.  Click that comment button below and tell us.  I would love to hear about it!

This post has been shared at Thank Goodness It’s Monday at Nourishing Joy.

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