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.

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?

Six Months In

I spent today cleaning my oven, inventorying dry goods in the pantry, helping the kids with fall paintings, updating our Christmas card list, and trying to get set for the holiday rush. That got me to thinking. First, how happy I was to be ahead of the curve this year. I can stock up on baking supplies and have a clean oven before the holidays hit. Second, wow is this different from how I was preparing for the holiday season last year. Then it occurred to me that Mother’s Day was over six months ago. I started my new job about six months ago. I started by blog about six months ago. Baby girl started solid food about six months ago, and my baby, the baby, the last one – is rapidly pulling herself to the one year mark.

What happened to all the time I should have gained when I quit working? Six months ago I had great ambition. I was going to get the grocery shopping organized and enjoyable, housekeeping on a schedule, and find those little pockets of time with the kids I was certain I was missing out on while I was at work. I was going to exercise daily, get more sleep, create an awesome blog, and get myself pulled together (ya know – like when I was in my 20’s and only had Man to worry about). I was going to make marinara sauce, salsa, cocoa mix, all baked goods from scratch. I was going to be crafty!

Apparently, I was delusional. I have completely relished the time with my little ones: I have finally been the baby hog, found time to laugh at just how many messes I clean up in a day, and appreciate that my boys (no matter how late we are running) take time to stare up at the moon. I now know what a bubble guppy is. I have come to terms if you put a boy in the backyard, you are going straight to the bath afterward. I have worn sweats so many times, I want to call What Not to Wear on myself!

I have had a lot of disappointment in what I thought I would do and what I actually have: things I swore I would make time for have remained neglected, I still don’t iron or mend, but I have managed to read one book. I have not made it to play outside every day, run, or have a daily devotional time, but we have been clean, fed, and on time to appointments. Seriously, being on time is BIG for me. Like 30 years of being late BIG. I have had time to thank God every day that I get those little moments that pass by so quickly. I thank Him that the days are long, but ask that the weeks slow down just a little. I guess things seem to prioritize themselves. AND last, I have seen glimpses of thoughtfulness that I booted out of my schedule years ago. Time to call a friend, drop a note, spend a morning catching up, deliver food, or leave a birthday wish on a door stoop. I didn’t realize the parts of myself that had been overlooked for so long. Is there something about yourself that you loved that has been whisked away in the day-to-day?

I could not have foreseen how greatly staying at home would change our family dynamic. I am by no means a new mom, but this seems like a completely new job. We will take stock in another six months. Right now, I have just been working my tail off, fumbling my way through my to-do list, and taking comfort in the fact no one has noticed all my mistakes and fired me by now. So what am I going to do with all of my lofty goals – well (in Texas, when we need more time to stall and think…you go for the long drawn out W-E-L-L) well – smile every day and adjust. Take something my presidential favorite Governor Romney said about his wife to heart. He said his wife always made sure he had the things he liked at home (his favorite bread, PB, whatever). It made me think, “Yeah, I need to work on first making home a haven”. I am going to focus on that – that, and clean socks in the drawer. The other stuff, it will come. Or it won’t, but I will still be here for my family and that was the plan from the beginning.

Other people’s posts that I found encouraging:

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.