Transitioning From a Crib to a Toddler Bed

Right before she turned two years old, Norah started complaining about her crib. She would wake up in the middle of the night and yell that she didn’t want to sleep in her crib and didn’t like it anymore. We weren’t sure when we were going to transition from crib to toddler bed, but Norah let us know when she was ready.

Choosing a new bed

Our first decision was to choose whether to buy a twin bed and add a rail or buy a toddler bed. There are pros and cons for each. The twin bed could grow with Norah and be her bed for the next 10+ years. The toddler bed was more manageably sized, less expensive, and could be passed down to future children. We thought we could consign the toddler bed when we were finished with it, assuming it was in good condition.

We ended up deciding on the toddler bed and bought this one from Walmart for $60. We got the cherry stain version to match her dresser and bookshelf.

We built the toddler bed on a Saturday so that Norah would have a chance to get used to the bed when sleep disruptions wouldn’t mess with her routine.

We let Norah pick out her own big girl comforter and sheet set. She chose this three piece Minnie set from Walmart for $40. Having a big girl comforter made her excited to get into the new bed. The set has held up through quite a few washings, but the decorative pillow unraveled in the dryer and I had to throw it out.

The first night Norah slept in the new bed went beautifully, she didn’t get out of the bed once and she went right to sleep. We figured she was telling us the truth when she said she didn’t like her crib. She was ready to transition to a toddler bed. She has been in the bed for five months now and she still loves it. She occasionally gets out of bed to gather random toys and books and bring them into bed with her, but she’s never tried to leave her room.

Adding an alarm clock

Another issue we had to tackle was Norah’s habit of waking up around 5 or 6 am and deciding that she wanted to be up for the day. This was a new occurrence and had only been happening for a month or so, but it was tough to deal with. It’s likely this had to do with Norah’s two-year molars coming in, but we wanted to introduce the concept of a “wake up time” sooner than later.

We bought the OK to Wake clock from Amazon for $21 to teach Norah time. The clock lights up green when it’s time for the child to wake up. There’s also an option for a ringing alarm, which we don’t use. It took a few days for Norah to understand the concept and follow it. We told her that she was allowed to get out of bed and read books or play with toys before the clock turned green, but that she couldn’t yell for us or leave the room.

On an average morning, we have the clock set to turn green at 8:30 am. She typically starts stirring at 8 and will either look at books or rest until the clock turns green. As soon as it does, she yells out “The clock is green. It’s morning time!”

Overall, we have a great sleeper which I credit partially to genetics and partially to using the SleepEasy Solution when she was four months old.

Tips for a successful transition from crib to toddler bed

    1. Look for signs of readiness. My daughter told us she was done with the crib, but other signs may include climbing out the crib or changing sleep patterns.
    2. Let your child have some say in the bed/comforter. We let Norah pick her comforter set and she was thrilled when she got to use it.
    3. Talk it up and make it fun. We surprised Norah by building the bed while she was downstairs then bringing her into her new room when everything was set up. We also acted extremely excited and positive about the change.
    4. Get a book about it. Norah loves to read books about things we’re going to do. We got her the book “Big Enough for a Bed” which talks about Elmo going from a crib into a big boy bed. This helped her understand what was happening and she frequently talked about how she had a big girl bed like Elmo.
    5. Give lots of of praise for a job well done. The first morning after Norah spent the night in her new bed, both Mike and I went in when she woke her up to talk about how great she did and how proud we were of her.

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How to Get Over Self-Limiting Beliefs

Self-limiting beliefs can be one of the biggest barriers to success that a freelancer can face. These negative thoughts can be confidence killers that cause you to doubt your ability to make it on your own. Self-limiting beliefs are the negative opinions you hold about yourself and your abilities. They may manifest as a voice in the back of your mind that says things like “You can’t do it…You’re going to fail…You’re not smart enough…Don’t bother.”

Getting rid of self-limiting beliefs isn’t easy. Doing work on yourself and your mindset is the hardest work you can do. If you’re struggling with self-limiting beliefs, here are some things you do to get out of that negative headspace.

Read self-help books and articles

One of the best, and cheapest, ways to get over your self-limiting beliefs is to learn how to combat the negative voice in your mind. You can find books on the topic at your local library or on Amazon.

Here are some books that I’ve found helpful:

Mastering Your Mean Girl: The No-BS Guide to Silencing Your Inner Critic and Becoming Wildly Wealthy, Fabulously Healthy, and Bursting with Love by Melissa Ambrosini

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Do the (self) work

A lot of people are running around desperate to avoid silence and thinking about their lives, their actions, and their mentality. The world makes it very easy to keep yourself incredibly busy. You may never have to deal with how you feel about yourself. But if you never address your negative emotions, then you’ll eventually find yourself in a very unhappy place.

The people who become comfortable dealing with their emotions and looking at themselves with a critical eye are the ones who make the most spiritual progress in their time on Earth.

Not only is self-work spending time thinking about yourself, it’s also reading self-improvement books and trying the strategies you read about. It’s about changing your behavior as much as it as about observing it. If you are completely self-aware, but never make any changes, you won’t grow as a person.

If you’re having negative thoughts about yourself, challenge them! If you are feeling bad about yourself, ask yourself why. Have you been making poor choices that don’t reflect your desires or morals? When you act in a way that goes against your core values, you will always feel uncomfortable until you get back on the right path.

Make changes

People who say they can’t or won’t change make me very sad. In my opinion, they either think that they are perfect and could use no improvement or they think that negative traits are set in stone and it’s a waste of time to make changes.

You are on this earth for any number of years. You are not the same person in grade school that you are in college. You do not have to ‘lock in’ to any one persona or belief system, especially if it no longer works for you. If you want to change, you can. It doesn’t matter what you did or how old you are, change is possible if you want it.

Mantras and affirmations

Two more tools to fight self-limiting beliefs are mantras and affirmations. Mantras and affirmations are things that you repeat out-loud or to yourself throughout the day. These positive phrases work to “record over” the tape of negative thoughts in your mind. For example, if you’re struggling with feeling like you can’t find quality clients, you could tell yourself a few times per day, “I deserve quality clients and I will find them.”

These phrases can work for a number of self-esteem issues. Some therapists suggest looking into a mirror while you say your phrases. This may help you form a deeper connection to the message.

When I remember to, I try to recite a few mantras and affirmations throughout the day. If I’m feeling anxious about a project or meeting, I will repeat something like “I will do my best. Things will work out.”

Mantras and affirmations are easy to add to your daily routine and can make a big difference in how you feel about yourself.

Talk to a therapist

If your self-limiting beliefs are very strong and you believe they have their roots in your childhood, you may want to see a therapist. I did a very helpful stint of therapy in my mid-20s to deal with issues surrounding my dysfunctional upbringing. The therapy helped immensely. Sometimes people are able to get over things from their past on their own, but other times people need help to work through their experiences and feelings. Therapy is great if you want help sorting out your thoughts.

Everyone struggles with self-limiting beliefs and negative emotions at different times in their lives. Self-limiting beliefs can become self-fulfilling prophecies, but it’s not hopeless. At some point, a person will become so uncomfortable doing what they’ve always done, that they will crave a change. When this happens, progress can be made. Doing the hard work on yourself can make a world of difference in all areas of your life.

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Freelancers, It’s Time to Raise Your Rates!

As a freelancer, raising your rates is an important part of your business strategy. Since you are your own boss, it’s unlikely that a client is going to offer you a raise because you don’t technically work for them. In order to get paid more this year, you will need to inform clients that you are raising your rates. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to send your rate increase emails!

As a freelancer, you should take the following things into consideration when thinking about rates:

  1. You pay your own taxes
  2. You receive no traditional benefits from clients (e.g. 401K contribution, paid time off)
  3. You may be paying your own insurance

Even as a young freelancer, you also need to think about savings and retirement.

Know Your Worth

Sometimes freelancing can become a race to the bottom, but it doesn’t have to be. There will always be someone willing to work for a lower rate. You can’t win the lowball game, you aren’t Walmart. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “fast, cheap or good – pick two”. Cheap and good are the least likely to go together.

If you know that you offer high-quality work then demand high-quality rates. If you undervalue yourself, no one is going to tell you so, they’ll just take advantage of your “good rates.” You need to feel secure in what you’re asking for. You don’t want to work for the client that tries to negotiate a lower rate because they’ve already placed a lesser value on your work then you think it’s worth.

Think about how much you’d like or need your annual salary to be. You can use this infographic to figure out your hourly rate. To find it, you need to divide your adjusted annual salary by billable hours per year.

It’s a good rule of thumb to increase your rates at least 5-10% per year to cover a cost of living increase. This could take a $20 per hour fee to a $24 two years later. It’s a subtle enough increase that your client is unlikely to decline it, but it will add up over time.

Raise Rates for Current Clients

There are a few options for raising rates for your current clients. The first option is to raise the rate at the work anniversary. Once you’ve hit one year together, you can let them know that your rate will increase from $X per hour to $Y per hour in 30 days.

The other option is to do a sweeping rate increase on the first day of each year. This increase does not take into account when you started working with the client. Even if you started working with them in November, they would be subject to your rate increase on January 1. Freelancers that choose this route often send out emails at the beginning of December informing clients of the upcoming change.

Raise Rates for New Clients

I would also suggest raising your rate for each new client you acquire.

When I started gaining clients I was accepting offers around $20. After a year, I wouldn’t accept anything under $25. Now, I’m not accepting anything under $35 and shooting for the $40+ range when pitching new clients.

I do this for two reasons:

  • My skills increase each year
  • My time becomes more valuable each year

My skills increase as I become more of an expert in my services. I pick up new methods and tools that increase my productivity and improve my offerings. I’m not the same quality of VA or social media marketer that I was two years ago. Therefore, I demand more.

My time becomes more valuable each year because of my increased skills and mentality. If I can earn $35 an hour, I’m not going to find it rewarding, exciting or useful to accept $20 per hour on a new project. My mental state will not be grateful and appreciative of my client. Instead, I will feel that I’m missing out on at least $15 for each hour I spend working with said client. I wouldn’t accept a client at that rate because I know that my heart would not be in the work. I would rather pass along the opportunity to someone at an earlier stage in their freelancing career who would appreciate it.

Phase Out Your Lowest Paying Clients

If you’ve already pitched a rate increase and a client can’t meet your new rates, you may want to phase them out.

There may be clients that you are willing to work with at a reduced rate. I work with a few charitable organizations at lower-than-normal rate. I work with them because I feel that I am doing some good in the community. Eventually, it may not make sense for me to do this because I only have so much time in the day, but for now, it works.

Raising your rates can be scary, but it’s an absolute necessity in the freelancer’s world. One of the best things about being a freelancer is that you have more control of your earning potential than in a traditional job. So, feel the fear and raise your rates anyway.

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2017 Goals

Every year, I set professional and personal goals for myself. These goals give me something to strive for throughout the year. I check my progress each month to determine whether I want to revise or remove goals. Setting goals and regularly reviewing them keeps me on track and motivated.

I believe that sharing your goals keeps you accountable. In that vein, here are my goals for 2017.

Professional goals

1) Increase my income by $10,000

The extra income would allow us to continue paying down our large student loans and the mortgage on our rental property. It would also allow us to invest more. In order to achieve this goal, I need to find around $835 of additional work each month. Part of that total will come from raising my rates. I have increased rates for new clients, but not bumped up the clients I currently have. I believe this goal is absolutely achievable by the end of the year.

2) Get another local client

Ideally, I’d like to have a few local clients. I currently have one. I’d like to bump it up to 3 or 4 in 2017. I’m interested in working with organizations that are making Rockford a better place. I need to continue reaching out via referrals or cold emails to local organizations. I plan to have at least one new local client by the end of June.

3) Launch The Sturm Agency website

My professional website has been www.erinsturm.com for several years now. However, I registered The Sturm Agency as a corporation in June 2015. I’d like to have The Sturm Agency’s website live by the end of March.

4) Launch my freelancer idea

I came up with a business idea for freelancers earlier this year. I registered the domain, but haven’t gotten a website up or started promoting it. I plan on launching the beta site before the end of June.

5) Sponsor something in the community

I’d love to sponsor something in the community, whether it’s a local baseball team or a donation to our local fair. I will look into my options and plan on making a move by September.

Personal goals

1) Lose 35-40 pounds

I’m still carrying around the 35 pounds I gained when pregnant with Norah. I’d like to get back to my pre-baby weight so I can fit back into 75% of my clothing. I need to clean up my diet. I’m a sugar addict and have way too many treats throughout the week. I need to eat healthier foods and see what effects it has on my body and mind. I hope to reach my goal, or be in a better position that I currently am, by the end of the year.

2) Focus on self-care

I’d like to spend 1-2 hours each week doing something that is just for me. I’m thinking some kind of class, seminar, etc. I want to get out of the house to do it. I tried to do this last year with a knitting class, but my husband’s travel schedule kept falling on the day of the class. I need to find something more flexible or find a regular babysittter. I plan to do this in the second half of the year.

3) Spend more time with friends

I’d like to go out every 2-3 weeks with a friend. I’ve made a few new friends in the past year and I want to make sure that I’m giving those friendships a chance to grow. I’m an introvert so it’s hard for me to convince myself to go do something. I’m good at taking my daughter to kid’s activities a few times per week, but I don’t always talk to other mothers while I’m there. I know it’s good to have a social circle and I could use more friends.

4) Learn hand-lettering

I’m really interested in teaching myself how to hand-letter. Not only does it look relaxing and fun, but it could also be a side business, assuming I’m any good at it. My husband gave me a book, some fancy paper and Tombow pens for Christmas so I just need to get started.

In addition to these goals, my husband and I have some family goals in place. They include things like organizing our kitchen/main floor, creating a chore schedule, getting Norah into preschool and other summer activities, and doing an online money course together.

Goals give me a sense of purpose for my year. I know that when I channel my focus, I achieve amazing things. If you need help setting goals, read my post on SMART goals.
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Defining and Setting SMART Goals

The beginning of the year is a great time to set goals. If you don’t have a concrete set of goals to work towards, you’ll spend all of your time fighting fires instead of making progress on your long-term objectives. To ensure your goals are achievable, you’ll need to make them SMART.

What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym for the characteristics of an achievable goal.

Specific

By specific, I mean precise! Your goals must be fully realized in your mind. If you aren’t totally clear on what you want your goal to be, brainstorm a list of things you’d like to accomplish in the next year. I recommend using Evernote, but a pen and paper will work too. Once you have a rough hunk of an idea, you’ll need to polish it until it’s a gemstone. Your goal shouldn’t be “grow my business,” because it’s too generic. Instead, it should be something like “grow my business 25% in three months.” We’ll iron out the time-bound and realistic aspects of goal setting later, but first, you’ll need to figure out what you specifically want to do.

Do: Make your intentions clear.

Don’t: Be afraid to make it a stretch goal (or a goal that will take serious effort to accomplish).

Measurable

Have you ever heard the saying, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it?” Although there’s some criticism of this phrase, it works for goal setting. If you don’t know how your goal will be achieved, then it can’t be achieved. You won’t know once you’ve hit the stopping point. Not every goal is able to be measured numerically. For example, if you set a goal to improve your health, you may want to measure how you’re feeling on a day-to-day basis after including exercise in your routine or how well you’re sleeping at night. Don’t get too hung up on numbers, but do make sure that you can measure your success in some quantifiable way.

Do: Source your inner accountant and find out how to quantify your goal.

Don’t: Let a dollar amount drive all of your goals.

Actionable

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Successful goals have clear actionable items, or next steps to completion. It’s pointless to set a goal that you’ll never be able to make progress on or one that’s so vague, there aren’t any obvious next steps. For example, a goal like “Feel better” doesn’t have a clear actionable associated with it. This goal could be about physical health or mental health or both. Right now, the goal as it stands is too vague to tell. If this were your goal, you should go back to the workshopping phase and make the goal more specific. However, if you knew the goal was referring to feeling better mentally, you could create some actionable next steps like booking an appointment with a therapist, meditating for five minutes each morning, or writing in a gratitude journal each evening. Once you have action items for your goal you can create To-Do lists. You should break down your action items into daily, weekly, and monthly lists. This gives you a task to do each day that brings you closer to achieving your goal.

Do: Figure out small, next steps you can take to achieve your goals.

Don’t: Attempt to do more than three things per day towards your SMART goal. You’ll burn out.

Realistic

Defining realistic is difficult. You’ll want your goals to be hard to achieve, but not impossible. You don’t want to set goals that require no effort, but you also don’t want to set goals that are so easy they don’t challenge you. Keep in mind, some goals that seemed very unrealistic to one person, like disruptive technologies, were realistic for someone else. Ultimately, only you know what is a challenging, realistic goal for yourself. You should take a personal inventory before deciding on what a realistic goal is. If you have a hard time achieving your goals then start with something a little easier to build confidence and gain forward momentum. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself by creating a list of goals that could only happen in perfect circumstances. Figure out what you’ve been able to achieve easily in the past and up that goal by 10-25%. If you can easily go to the gym once a week, strive to go six times per month.

Do: Be honest with yourself and know your weaknesses and strengths.

Don’t: Be too easy or too hard on yourself. You should be proud when you achieve your goal.

Time-Bound

Making a goal time-bound may be the most important part of setting a SMART goal. A goal without a deadline is a dream. It’s not real! It’s very easy to say, “Someday I’d like to do this,” but if you don’t set a deadline then someday will never come. Setting a deadline for your goal will motivate you even if you’re a procrastinator. Be firm with yourself, don’t push the date around or make excuses for why you couldn’t get it done on your self-imposed timeline. Treat your goal’s deadline as you would a client’s project. If you give yourself no wiggle room, you’ll find a way to complete your goal. Depending on the goal, you’ll need to determine an appropriate deadline. You’ll also want to create mini-deadlines for the Actionable items you’ve created. So, your ultimate goal may take a month to complete, but you’ll reach milestones each week.

Do: Time-block your calendar to ensure that you’ll work on your goals throughout the week.

Don’t: Rely on motivation or inspiration. The people who get things done are the ones that show up and do work regardless of how they feel.

Setting SMART goals will give you better focus and allow you to precisely track your progress. If you’ve had trouble with goal setting in the past, try setting SMART goals and see what happens!

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