Summer Break, Day 1

I did not have a huge organized list of things to do this summer, no bucket lists to prevent boredom, 101 things to make this summer the best.  All of the cleaning out and packing to move has me in a much more minimalist mood this year.  Or I’m just pooped and completely over Pinterest.  Whatever.

We headed out for the orthodontist this morning, so since we were all clean, dressed, and out of the house we decided to complete what I like to think of as the summer reading circuit.  I have at least one child who is extrinsically motivated, so these programs are wonderful!

  • local library – read aloud dates, parties, rewards for books read…FREE! Love it!  Mom’s Favorite for sure.
  • Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Triathlon – the kids complete a journal about their reading, return it to the store and get to choose a FREE featured book.  The journal is not bad…answer 3 out of 4 questions.  Thank you!!!
  • Half Price Books Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program – my children’s favorite = they read 300 minutes, they get a store credit.  HPB trips are a major motivator at my house.

We rewarded our stellar bookstore/library behavior with some lunch and play (thanks to the Chick-Fil-A calendar card) and headed home.  What a great start for a “rainstorm looming just to the west” kind of day.

If you have a favorite summer reading rewards program, please – leave it in the comments below! 

If you NEED a list

  • Take kids to eat at Chick-Fil-A.  Let them play in the play area.
  • join summer reading program
  • go on a library trip

P.S. I am totally in the wrong field.  I found my old retainers…for $100, the doctor will look at them and develop a plan.  I’m a mom.  I plan all the time.  No one has ever paid me $100 for my plan.  I do like teeth…just saying.

Sometimes I want to punch Eve in the face

About once a month, I really dislike Eve.  Seriously, stick to your end of the garden and follow the rules.  I blame her for the monthly kick in the pants I receive.  As the headache, nausea, and dull pain creeps up on my otherwise delightful day, I consider that men have it easier.

Then I stop and watch my children as they work at their Play-Doh projects (Man hates Play-Doh, but I love that it keeps them entertained for hours and I could write a paper on the “educational benefits”).  As I watch, I remember what it was like to feel each of them wiggle and kick while I was pregnant and the way Man looked at me after each of them was born and I think, being a woman is pretty amazing.   Painful at times, but amazing.

Creating Peace at Home – Hopefully!

The holidays seem to amplify the hustle, bustle, and chaos of our overfilled lives.   I may have a few tips to create a little peace this holiday season. If you aren’t into organizing, stick with me one more minute – pretty please.

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1. The Binder.  The goal is to make things move decisively and quickly.   Inside I filled my binder with tabs (what can I say…even ex-teachers still love binders with tabs).

  •  Meal Planning – menu planning templates, the freezer and pantry inventories, go to recipes for quick meals (I also keep all the ingredients on hand)
  • Kids – school calendars, handwriting template, our I’m Bored sheet
  • Shopping Lists – I use this awesome app for my weekly grocery shopping, so this tab is to keep a long running list of household items, upcoming family/friends’ gifts, school items for class parties or teacher appreciation – the app can do all that, but I prefer old school pen & paper lists for some stuff
  • Miscellaneous –  we have a running family bucket/wish list,
  • Pockets – urgent items I need to take care of (like signed papers for school, recipes in progress, in the works projects, etc.)
  • Holidays –  I added in a tab for the holidays based loosely off of the Planning for a Peaceful Christmas suggestions on Raising Arrows.
  • all encompassing holiday shopping list
  • holiday menus
  • holiday shopping lists
  • holiday craft list
  • decorating shopping list

If you see a lady with three kids and a binder in Hobby Lobby, that’s most likely me.  If I’m out, I can glance at my lists and see what I’m forgetting.

2. Bored Boxes  These are clear plastic shoebox containers filled with toys and books that have worn out their admiration at home, but if we are waiting on a sibling in the carpool line, shopping at the mall, or sitting at practice become fun and fascinating again.  We have several stacked by the door, and as we head out, we grab one.

3. Dinner Bins  If you think of a fancy or cute name, let me know and I will change it.  I took large clear organizing tubs and packed up quiet toys to hide inside.  These are things the kids unfailingly hold their attention, but we don’t play with every day.  There are three, with different items to appeal to each child, and I rotate them week to week (or when I remember).

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These are nice because the activities don’t require me to supervise, are quickly picked up, and I can make dinner in peace.

Need a little more joy?

Try my Fill Your Freezer Plan, Dinner Advent Calendar or Elf on the Shelf Calendar.  Sometimes taking the guess work out of what to cook is half the battle. I LOVE this Random Acts of Kindness chain from Coffee Cups and Crayons.

Spark Some Summer Fun

A year ago, I left a teaching job to stay at home full-time with my three little bambinos.  I started writing about our little adventures, big ideas, and family meals.  Then, in the fall, my oldest went off to kindergarten.  We survived!  Summer officially begins this week, so I am taking some time to turn off the electronics, shuttle kids to swim lessons, find a campfire to roast some marshmallows, and relish some time with our party of five.  Before I grab my swimsuit and stock up on water balloons, here are some things that might help spark some summer fun.  Happy June!  And, Happy Summer!

Create a summer bucket list, wish list, checklist…Call it what you want, but actually writing down family outings, fun food, and quick trips helps you actually get them done.  Use small post-its for a flexible calendar (items are easily moved if weather or budget don’t cooperate), get the kids to create a summer checklist a poster their first day out of school, or make it family affair and brainstorm together one night during dinner.

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For our list, each person was given their own colored note card.  Each picked three things they wanted us to do as a family this summer (we keep it simple – that’s still 12-15 activities).  I hole punched them and put them in my meal planning binder so when I make a menu for the week, I can keep an eye on each person’s list and add things to the family calendar.

Head to the clearance aisle or dollar store and stock up on fun summer goodies you can hide back and spring on the kids during a hot lazy afternoon.  I tucked away birthday party candy for reading time, beach inspired paper plates, dive sticks for the pool, new sidewalk chalk, Velcro catch mits, and a handful of new kid-friendly snack & drink recipes.

Surprise a friend with a Summer’s Here!  Basket.  The boys brainstormed for our fave mother-daughter duo.  We grabbed a dollar store bucket and filled it with sunscreen, beach towels, nail polish, bubbles, a beach ball, water balloons, a kite, a water gun, gummy bears (my kids think gummy bears MAKE any gift or occasion), a special Minnie-Mouse cup, sidewalk chalk, and glow sticks.  We will leave it for them to find when they come home from their last day of school.  Most of the items in ours were right around $1, so we were able to give a lot for just a little out of our weekly budget.

Throw a Welcome to Summer Party the last day of school.  Break out the slip and slide or sprinkler, water balloons, hop scotch, bean bag toss or any other DIY backyard fun to let your brood know you’re glad as glad as they are that summer has begun.  I’m going to try Valerie’s  water sponge bombs – she has so much great stuff! Check out my Summer Pinterest board for more ideas than I have time to make!

Pick them up from school the last day and go on an impromptu family vacation or outing.

Complete a Mom Challenge.  I like this one from iMOM.  It is 30 days, so it’s perfect for June.

Prepare to keep your sanity.  Read about some of these parent tactics (this mom’s creative gounding, his get along shirt, and their creative consequences), assemble your own incentive program (my kids chose a marble jar model – Super Summer Jar), make or order a cute chore chart, and plan out some scheduled activities.

Super Summer Jar

Find local lessons, camps, or classes to enroll the kids for some away from the house fun.  Check into summer reading programs at your library and easy games you can play with them to help retain all the academic strides they made this school year.  Avoid that famous line, “I’m bored!” with these free printables (I’m Bored and I’m Bored too).  Just post them somewhere easy for the kids to find and when they come find you, point them to the idea sheet.

I'm Bored too  I'm_Bored!

The main thing is to be present with your kids.  Big or small, they will just remember they enjoyed hanging with mom & dad (or grandma!).  How do you create sparkle in your summer?

Does this bangle go with my granola?

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I’ve been welcomed into “retirement” in various ways over the past couple of days. My house, a pile of what used to be my classroom waiting for sorting, trash, or storage in the garage. My mother (who hates that accolade), a rhinestone purple bangle (apparently in response to my previous post). My grandma, a beautiful rose-bush that made me think of the Janis Joplin ballad. My sons, rambunctious excitement over, well, I’m not sure they know other than change in routine.

Today felt like what I imagined it would. Meant to wake at 6:00 to have time for gardening, instead I woke at 7:00. Feed the baby, make breakfast, get everyone ready, clean up from breakfast, feed the baby, beeline to the grocery store, lunch, naps, handwriting practice, and a few minutes in the kitchen with Kiddo making granola for the week’s breakfast. It’s so simple to make, and a great starter recipe for kids who want to cook. Plus, once you find a base recipe, the variations are endless. Here’s two of our favorites. They both bake at 325, so that makes multi-tasking super easy. Save yourself some time during clean up – cover your sheet pan in parchment paper or foil with nonstick spray.

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Peanut Butter Granola
from Peanut Butter Fingers

  • 6T creamy peanut butter (we use the natural kind)
  • 6T honey – Kiddo picked some up at the Farmer’s market this weekend
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 3 c oats

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, combine the oats and cinnamon. Combine peanut butter and honey in a microwave safe bowl and heat until peanut butter melts. Stir so honey and peanut butter mix well. Stir vanilla into peanut butter and honey mixture, and mix very well. Add to oats and stir until oats are completely covered in peanut butter mixture. Spread out oat mixture onto prepared cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until granola is slightly browned. Let cool completely before storing.

Homemade Granola from You Made That?

  • 4 c oats
  • 1/2 c flax meal
  • 1/2 c whole almonds, chopped
  • 6T canola oil
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1/2 c of dried fruit of your choice – the boys always pick banana chips, but we’ve made it with chopped apricot and cranberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine the oats, nuts, and flax meal in a large mixing bowl. In medium saucepan, over medium-low heat, melt the oil, brown sugar, honey, and salt stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add the vanilla, and stir well. Pour the sugar mixture over the oats and stir well until combined. Spread out oat mixture onto prepared cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until granola is slightly browned. Let cool completely before adding dried fruit and storing.

It should store in an airtight container for two to three weeks. Granola freezes well. One thing to keep in mind, granola is concentrated energy. A little goes a long way. I like to serve granola with yogurt, but I wouldn’t put it past me to use it with some of the berries we picked up for an impromptu blackberry crisp – or later in the summer, a peach one – or with apples in the fall. Oh! or the peanut butter one with some chocolate chips and mini marshmallows for s’more granola mix. It’s a great crunch of texture on top of hot oatmeal. You could throw it onto some greens, especially with a sweet vinaigrette. I know…I get a little carried away.

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Any way, back to cooking this afternoon with my son. Oats all over the kitchen – silly – delightful. I could take food writing classes (do they have those?) for years and could not describe food the way he does. Today’s was simply a, “mom, that tastes just perfect”. Not the best example. Then Man came home, little ones woke up, and except for a surprise dinner party, business went on as usual. I could get used to this. Btw – I think the bangle compliments my sparkly pink toenails.

S’more Mom

I come through the door, exhausted from a long day of being unprepared and super busy at work.  The baby has been eagerly awaiting her mommy since my arrival home lines up perfectly with her next feeding.  The boys are wound up on sugar, tired energy that comes at the end of the day, and the newfound freedom that comes from mom being busy with baby sister, so an all out ninja turtle reenactment ensues.  I sit on the couch feeding my daughter and survey the post hurricane like conditions of my living room.  I close my eyes for a moment, thank God everyone is healthy and safe, and start making plans to gain control over my home this weekend.   Monday will come all to quickly and it’s back to haphazard cleaning, scattered grocery shopping with a feeble attempt at couponing, a mountain of laundry, half completed weekend projects…the list goes on. I’ll come in from work, we will scratch together dinner, hurry through baths and stories, and shoo the kids off to bed.  Then my husband and I will start cleaning up the debris of the day, washing dishes, picking up clothes and finally heading to bed.  He will snuggle in close and I will find myself glancing at the clock instead of moving in toward him.  If I was treading water earlier this year, we have moved straight on to dead man’s float.  Something has to give!  I have never been okay with not feeling like I was the best at something.  I want to treasure time with my children while they are growing up.  I want to have time to play with them instead of just cycling through my daily parenting to-do list.  I want to cherish the time I have with my husband; be able to show him a glimpse of all the time, energy and affection I could shower him with back when we were dating.  I want to actually have my house in order:  grocery shopping list categorized by department and in order of the store, neatly clipped coupons, sales researched, laundry washed, dried, folded and put away all in the same day, bathroom counters clean and sparkling. So, I quit.  I resigned from my job, and in 22 days when my contract expires, I am taking on the title of SAHM.  As with all my plans and God’s sense of humor, nothing is quite ever as I imagine it, so I am chronicling my adventures of culinarian, wife, and stay at home mom.  I’m setting out to find less work, s’more mom.