Thursday, April 26, 2018

Husbands and Wives . . . .

Does anyone have romantic plans for the summer? (If you are single, how will you treat yourself to time just for YOU this summer?)


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

"Live Summer Deliberately" Series on Facebook

Join us over on Facebook to leave your questions and comments and to share your own thoughts and experiences on how to have a deliberate summer with your family!


Plan for the End

 How are you planning for summer?


Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Summer at Home

My son climbed into the barber’s chair, and as soon as the cape was fastened around his neck, he started talking.

[Side note: It tickles me that he already knows the social convention of chatting with your barber. He’s been doing it since kindergarten.]

Within minutes, they were talking about a favorite subject for both men: back yards. The barber asked my son if we have a garden.

“No, sir, but sometimes we grow stuff upside down.”

How does he remember that? He’s talking about that summer when we got a good deal on Topsy Turvies and grew bell peppers and tomatoes.

His comment just confirms one of my favorite lessons that I’ve learned as a mother: you never know what’s going to bring on the magic.

Sure, you can plan something glorious—as minor as a Saturday afternoon cupcake-decorating party to a full-blown vacation—and you may or may not get the magic. The kids may go nuts, or they may ho-hum their way through the moment. My kids are not fans of dying Easter eggs, cooking in an Easy Bake Oven, or carving pumpkins. Nope. Nary a giggle. But when I hit the print button on the plain, black-and-white Santa with circles for his beard—where you’re supposed to insert cotton balls—and hang it on the fridge? They lose their little minds.

I know that I romanticize summer. Every year, I expect magical months of bubbles, pinwheels, deep conversations, and moments worthy of a Hallmark movie. While it doesn’t exactly go like that, those memorable moments do happen—but as I’ve learned, I can’t always plan them. So how do they happen?

You spend time—lots of time—together. And then you wait.

In this season of life, all of my work is based in the home. Prior to kindergarten, we never used babysitters, childcare centers, camps, or pre-schools. My kids are used to being home a lot. And I don’t exactly have a reputation for being super structured (my husband calls me a hippie at least twice a week). But children thrive on routine, so I do my best to form loose routines and summer schedules. Here are some of the best tips I’ve found.

1. At some point during the summer, we take a family vacation to the beach—and this vacation goes against every otherwise frugal aspect of our lives. We splurge on nearly every aspect of this trip, and the pay-off is a big one. While there are other beach spots that are less costly, we’ve settled on one that’s family-oriented, security-conscious, and filled with nature (but not activities; your “activity” is to put your walking shoes on—or no shoes, praise the Lord—and go look for moments that will imprint on your mind). We’re not extreme couponers or anything, but all four of us are mindful of this trip throughout the year. It’s in the budget, and we do what we have to do to make it happen. Here’s why: my children will randomly bring up memories from that summer trip in November and February; and they also make PLANS like nobody’s business. They make vacation bucket lists, photo op lists, and lists of what they want to bring and wear. “Can we take Ritz peanut butter bits?” “I want to take my kite and run with it on the beach.” “This year, I want to eat my ice cream in a cone.” “I hope Daddy doesn’t catch another stingray, but I hope we do see a baby shark.” “When we make our sand castle, let’s pretend the helicopter is flying over it.” “Let’s go where we saw that alligator from last time!” “I still think that was an eagle we saw over there.” “Mommy, don’t let me forget to pack my mermaid panties!” (Okay, the little one is our most fashion-conscious vacationer.) These shared experiences have bonded us closer together than almost anything I can think of. We have a language about that trip that no one else understands except the four of us. Everyone is in a great mood, and conversation flows constantly. They’ll provide me with lots of funny material and great pictures for scrapbooks. Every time we tighten the finances through the rest of the year, we all know that we’re investing in memories that we haven’t made yet.

2. We make a big deal out of reading. I majored in English, and I come from a long line of bookworms. Last year, my children’s school librarian created an amazing checklist of summer reading goals—things like “read a book that your parents read as a child” and “read a book with one word as the title.” We did a few of those at home, and then we spent two afternoons at the library—but instead of checking out books, they sat there and read together to finish out their lists. The librarian did end up giving both of my children goodie bags a few weeks into the new school year, but I didn’t emphasize the “prizes.” They got satisfaction from filling in those squares. And a bonus that I didn’t see coming is that they ended up reading many of those same books throughout the following school year. They felt big and bad because they already knew those stories, and feeling big and bad is always a good thing in elementary school. And back to that yearly beach trip—when my children were younger, they would gather every board book and picture book they owned that was even remotely related to the beach or ocean (Nemo totally counts), and those went with us. A few of those still do, but now it’s a bigger deal to choose one chapter book to take along as an official “beach read.”

3. They set summer goals. My little boy started doing this the summer before he started kindergarten—totally on his own—and we all get a kick out of his lists. Some of his past goals have been to ride down a straight road super fast, taste cotton candy, catch a lightning bug without killing him (we haven’t nailed that one yet . . . that poor little fly), fly a kite on the beach, blow a giant Hubba Bubba bubble, play a drum at the music store, eat a hot dog at a baseball game with Daddy, and take the training wheels off his bike. The goals are all theirs—my only part is to provide the support (and sometimes the materials) so that they can accomplish the ones that I want them to accomplish.

4. This is my hardest one . . . but we try to stick to a routine. It’s a loose one, but at some point during each day, we need to eat at least two real meals, do some cleaning, pick up clutter, and block out times for outside, reading, workbooks, and rest. Recently, someone suggested the idea of choosing a few songs that total around fifteen minutes and then play those near the end of every day for a power clean-up/pick-up time. The idea sounds just fun enough for my children to get on board, so we’re adding it to our summer repertoire. Nothing wears a mama out like clutter all over the house.

5. Every other week, we make sure there’s some event on the calendar. One week it’s as simple as, “Mommy’s gotta go get that spot checked at the dermatologist, so Daddy is getting off early to stay with us.” If that’s not the norm, then that’s an instant party. We also have Vacation Bible School one week, and another two weeks will involve some family birthdays.

I know we’ve heard it a thousand times, but it really is true: it is not our job to entertain our children. The umbilical cord is long gone, and they are separate little humans who do (and should) have their own lives. We’re here to lead, mentor, coach, discipline, and love, love, love . . . but we’re not one-woman puppet show coordinators (well, unless you DO decide to put on a puppet show here and there, and in that case, I’d like to know when that will be so that we can come over). But I have my own summer goals too. There’s a recipe that I really want to nail. I’m about two years behind on scrapbooks. At some point, I want to re-decorate the master bedroom and overhaul the linen closet. My Sunday School class is doing I Corinthians, and I want plenty of time to study that on my own. And I wasn’t kidding about the bookworm thing . . . I have two book clubs going on this summer.
And then August will come. And one day in August, your husband will call and say that he’s working late.

It will rain all day.

The dog will be under your feet because she is certain that all that rain will kill you all.

The books will all be read. The craft projects will be done. Workbooks will be complete.

Oh—and you’ll definitely have cramps that day.

With a pure heart and a light spirit, you will hand over the remote to them, announce that dinner will be Cheerios, and you’ll head to another room with a heating pad and a different remote, calling over your shoulder, “Try to stick to PBS, y’all.”


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Summer Spent in Childcare

Summer is a comin’ . . . despite the fact many of us are still donning coats, hats, and mittens mid-April!

With summer comes a slower pace for most, especially if you have school-age children. Those mornings sans book bags, signed homework folders, and forgotten lunch boxes are a welcomed relief for sure. Sleeping a little later, a relaxed breakfast around the kitchen table, and days spent at home really seem to define the season for families where one or more parents work from within the home. But for more and more parents who work outside the home, summer just means a shift in where to take the little ankle biters. Perhaps it’s Grandma’s, a childcare center, or a day camp. While things may not feel that different for the parent who still has to get everyone out of the house and dropped at respective locations for the day, for the children, things are different. Summer is always filled with childhood memories that stand the test of time.

For those of you who have your children in any type of childcare situation for the summer, here are a few summer tips from the perspective of not only a mother, child advocate, and certified parenting coach--but a former childcare center owner (who has quite a passion for the field, so hold on!):

1. Pay attention to the calendar of events. Chances are there are more than a handful of field trips and activities planned for your child. Nothing stinks more than being the kid whose mom always forgets to send a field trip shirt or bathing suit, or who is not wearing a crazy hat when everyone else is rocking one. To err is human . . . but to err every day is just lazy, and your child misses out. Don’t get me wrong--older children can bear more responsibility, but mamas, you’re driving the boat. Instill steps to organization so that special days aren’t missed. This also goes for paying attention to the times of those trips and activities (AND NAP TIME). Get your child there on time for an event. No kid likes being the one that the whole busload of children is waiting on. And no TEACHER loves it when a child comes in for the day AT NAPTIME when they just woke up at home. Super fun!

2. Don’t send electronic devices every day for your child’s entertainment. Can’t care if everyone else is doing it. I personally used to put a summer-wide ban on this in my center. We had ONE day each month when children could bring a “device.” I have watched first-hand how children collectively zone out and become so engrossed in those devices that they become aggressive and just plain nasty acting. Oh y’all, it broke my heart. But days we had UNO and Monopoly marathons complete with bowls of popcorn and Skittles? I was nearly brought to tears watching them work TOGETHER and interact, laugh, and PLAY! Send real toys, board games, books, and engaging items. Please heed this tip if nothing else!

3. PICK YOUR KIDS UP! I get it; an hour alone at the grocery store can feel as rewarding as a trip to the tropics when you have small children. By all means, if you have childcare secured, take advantage here and there to do what you need to do HERE and THERE. I know you’re paying for it, but you are paying to hold the spot for your child when you need to work, have a doctor’s appointment, etc. Leaving your child ‘til closing when you get off every day at 4:00--and bringing your child every. single. time. you have a day off--not cool! Especially in the summer, when you have time available that you wouldn’t normally have with your child. Do what you have to do to support your family, but these are your children. Be WITH them. Don’t miss precious opportunities!
4. Send extra clothes. For real. That isn’t just something caregivers say; they mean it. Stuff happens (a lot) when you’re working with children. Send those clothes in, and then send some more if your child ends up using them. Trust me. It’s a big deal.

5. Know who’s watching your children. Duh, right?! Nope. Had more than my share of parents who didn’t know the names of the teachers caring for their children, much less speak when dropping off/picking up each day. First of all, know where you’re sending your child, and make sure the center/camp is regulated in some way. There need to be checks and balances in place for everyone tending to children (this is a soap box issue for me, but I won’t get into it here). Second, know the teacher’s name, for goodness’ sake! This is just plain respect if nothing else. Please speak when you come in and out. Summer is hot. That teacher engaged in ways you haven’t begun to think about (times 40). She’s given hugs and kisses to children that aren’t hers, broken up arguments, stopped a fight over whose sand is whose, comforted hurt feelings, wiped hineys, cleaned noses, had 42 different conversations ranging from dinosaurs to the coveted yellow block in the block center, and sweated her butt off at the zoo while keeping up with all the little monkeys she brought with her. You can say hello.

Most of this comes down to putting yourself in the shoes of these caregivers and being sure that good communication is taking place both ways. Take full advantage of the time you have with your children, but when outside childcare is your only option, be sure that your child gets the maximum experience.

And by all means, do all that you can to teach your children to be a joy to whoever cares for them.