Avoid the Summer Slide: Review Packets Worth Investing In

I spent quite a while this past month searching for a summer packet for the kids.  Now before you think I’m crazy, I don’t make them do schoolwork all summer.  If you saw my last post, you know I love to fit in lots of fun.  But I also hate to think that my kids missed out on great learning opportunities and fell behind just because I decided to let them completely veg out over the summer.  Must be the importance of education that my grandma ingrained in my head.

So finally I came across some great packets that I thought would do the job.  I hate spending money, but I don’t have the patience to make my own worksheets (or the knowledge for that matter!), and I worry that the workbooks available at the store cover the common core.  What better way to know than to get it from a teacher.  So we decided to invest.  And $6-$7 per packet really isn’t bad for keeping your child up-to-par for three months.

Here are my favorites.  I hope you like them as much as I do!

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On My Way to K by Miss Kindergarten Love - $6.75 at TPT

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Ready Made for 2nd Grade by Lyndsey Kuster @ A Year of Many Firsts - $7 at TPT

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1st Grade Summer Packet by Faith Wheeler - $7.50 at TPT

Know of some other great summer packets for this age group?  Please share!

Planning Summer: Theme Days

Not one of my parenting priorities, but just something fun: theme days.  Having theme days allows to do a variety of different things under a certain theme.  This keeps the kids busy and sometimes allows me to be more closely involved with their play.  Here are some of the theme days we have planned for this summer:

First Day of Summer Party
Construction Day
Craft Day
Yard Game Day
Sports Day
Splash Day
Spa Day
Last Day of Summer Party

I always plan for plenty–that way, when I don’t get to all of them, we still remember the ones we were able to have fun with.  Our favorite: Spa Day!  Last year, each of the kids invited a friend over, and we painted nails, made homemade chocolate face masks, and did some hair.  This is another MUST DO for this year!

What are some of your favorite themes?

Super Summer 2014 Is Almost Here!

Before I even knew it, June was upon me!  I always feel like I’m in a frenzy, trying to get things done.  Working.  Driving the kids.  Other work.  Soccer.  Cooking.  Cleaning.  Taking care of the kids.  More chores.  Groceries.  Working.  You know.

So many of you have already entered the blissfulness of kids-are-home-for-the summer.  For some of you this might be wonderful.  For others, this may be terrifying.  I have a love-hate relationship with school summer vacation.  Yes, I love being able to do things with my family.  But I have to say I really DO NOT like to take them to work with me.  It seems like no matter what I do or give them, they are still constantly fighting, hungry, thirsty, wanting to sit on my lap, using all the tape, drawing on things they’re not supposed to…

But back to the fun part.  What I like best about summer: memory-making.  I love love LOVE knowing that I am making memories with my kids–the kind of memories I remember spending with my grandparents over the summer when my dad was working.  Church camp.  Ice cream.  Fireworks.  Museums.  Outdoor activities.  I loved fishing with my grandpa, playing wiffle ball in the back yard, playing in the lake.  Going to the library.  Ah, but we’ll save that for another day.

I realized I am way behind in revealing my summer calendar!  I hope you will check out my summer calendar and come up with some awesome ideas of your own to fill in there as well!  Oh, and while you’re here–let me know what you think and what your favorite ideas are!

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Planning Summer: Getting Outside

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Another item of great importance to me and my parenting style is exercise.  I have always struggled with my weight, and there are several weight-related diseases that run in my family.  It is my goal to encourage active behavior early in life so that my kids live a healthy lifestyle as adults.  Because of that, I like to make sure I get the kids outside to play.  I also remember some of my greatest fun as a kid being outside.  I hate to have my kids staring at the TV all day when they could be running around.  Here’s what we are planning to do this summer to encourage that behavior:

Camp out in the back yard
Roast hot dogs
Make s’mores
Corn roast
Go roller skating (this will probably be on our sidewalk)
Fun day at the park
Start a water fight
Picnic at the creek
Watch the birds
Plant a garden
Catch bugs (be careful with this one–last year, Rapunzel caught a bee!)

Our #1 outdoor activity is the local parks’ summer program.  Every year, they set up little platforms at various local parks, and you have to follow the directions provided to find them.  Each one has a piece of plastic on it with an image cut out, and the object is to place a piece of paper over the image and color it with crayon so that it shows up on the paper.  The goal is to get all of these, and we have for the last two years in a row.  It sounds easy, but they change up the parks every year, some trails are fairly difficult, and some can be over 2 miles.  We spend most of our time over the summer on this, and we have many great experiences from the last two years (too many to mention!).  Check with your local library and park programs; maybe you have something similar in your area!

What do you like to do outside with your kids over the summer?

Planning for Summer: Being Creative

One of the most important things to me when parenting my children is encouraging their creativity and the creative process.  Since the start of my parenting journey, I’ve been all for creative play: less about the toys that do things for you and more about the dolls and legos, crayons, paper, etc.  Apparently I did a good job of this too, because my kids have this knack for making just about anything using paper and an ENTIRE roll of tape.

So that being said, of course I am all for encouraging creativity throughout the summer.  Here are some of the things we plan to do to keep those creative juices flowing:

Make our own bubbles
Blow those bubbles
Find shapes in the clouds
Write in your journal
Learn a dance
Make a video
Create a collage using pictures from magazines
Play with sidewalk chalk
Create a photo booth and take pictures
Make oobleck and play with it
Use your imagination day!
Build a fort
Write a story
Draw pictures to go with your story
Make a sock puppet
Put on a show with your sock puppet

I’d also like to visit two area arts festivals over the summer as well.  It looks like a huge list, but when you space things out and group some of the smaller things together, it really isn’t too much when your kids are home all summer.  Better building that creativity than having their face in a cell phone!

I still have a couple of days to fill.  What creative things do you like do with your kids?

Favorite Apps: Apps That Save You Money

Since our budget has fluctuated so much in the last few months, I’ve been attempting to become a little more frugal with the little bit of money that we have so that what we have might stretch a long way.  Of course I’ve received much help from my coupon-fanatic best friend of 15 years and some extremely helpful websites (I’ll share those at another time), but I definitely appreciate the little helpers that I can carry with me everywhere right on my phone.  I hope you’ll try them out and find that they help you stretch your dollar too:

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Cartwheel: This Target app allows you to save money on many different items at Target.  You might check this app when you have your grocery list to maximize your savings or just browse through it to see if there are any good deals you can use on those things you don’t need but were hoping for a good deal on.  Add the savings you want to your personalized Cartwheel barcode and have the cashier scan it when you’re checking out.  You can use these savings on top of your other coupons, and they can be used as many times as you like before they expire!

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Favado: Use this app to search out the best deals at your local stores.  You can search deals by store or type in the item in the search bar to find out which store has the best deal.

 

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Mint: 
You may have already heard of this app, as it’s been around for quite a while as a supplement to the website.  I use them all together to track my spending: managing my checkbook, tracking what we spend money on, and budgeting for the upcoming month.  We’ve also used it to build up our emergency fund and also to pay off our debt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Unit Price Compare: I’m a big proponent on comparing unit prices before I buy something.  I like to make sure I’m getting the most I can for my money.  It’s not always easy to compare unit prices when you’re tired and stressed (or if it’s been that long since you had a math class…).  Just plug in the unit and size of the items you are comparing (less any coupons you are using), and it will tell which is the best deal.

Sometimes You Just Need a Day Off

For those working Momma’s out there…sometimes…(and I hope you realize it) you just need a day off.  If I share anything in common with any of the other working moms out there in the world, I could probably bet that many of you hate taking a day off.  For some of you, it just means there’s that much to catch up on when you get back to work.  For others, it might mean that your short on pay for a day.  I have been both of those.

But really, no matter what your situation (and I can say this, because I’ve worked full time, stayed at home, and worked part time–sometimes all at the same time and sometimes at different times–at some point in my life), you JUST NEED TO TAKE A DAY OFF.

What prompted me to write this today was Wednesday.  I drove all the way over to work only to realize that I forgot my key.  And being the only employee with official hours on Wednesday this week (I work at a small church), there just wasn’t anyone to let me in.  As I drove back home to get my key, I tossed around different scenerios in my head.  When would I make up that forty minutes I just lost?  Do I just call it a day?  Do I work late?  After weighing my options, I just decided to call in.  (Please keep in mind that you can’t just take off whenever you want–unless, of course, you are your own boss–but check in with the boss first to make sure it’s approved!)

Now back to WHY I needed the day off: I made the mistake earlier this week of thinking my workload this week had lightened since Easter.  Not so much.  Since I try to save as much money as possible by shopping at different places depending on deals and coupons, I had several places to go.  I had meat to separate in the basement refrigerator (we buy in bulk), Sunday School items to prepare, among other things to take care of.  So i took the morning to prepare my lists and head out to the various stores.

Thank goodness I did, or I never would have gotten everything done!

If you’re behind at home, and it’s stressing you out; if it’s affecting your mood; if you’re just worn down; if you just need one day without someone needing you every second…find a babysitter, call in sick…just take the day off.  Your kids (and probably your husband, if you have one) will thank you for it.

Planning for Summer: Play Dates

Less than a week ago, after picking up Princess Anna from preschool, she announced from the backseat that this summer, after camp and after her birthday could she have a sleepover at her friends house?  And could she play at her friend’s house?  Because she would have fun.

Now a planned out family summer is fun and all, but sometimes kids just need time to blow off steam with their friends.  Her preschool friend doesn’t live quite as close to us as some of her other friends, but even last summer we made sure they had plenty of time just to play.

That being said, one of the first things I wanted to do when planning this summer was to include her friends.  Last year we had an absolutely wonderful time during spa day, so we wanted to make sure they were included in that.  Craft day was also a hit, and they were there that day also.  And of course a play date here and there.  Now that I have her friend’s vacation schedule, I know when to plan the activities that they won’t want to miss!  But don’t let the play date schedule run your summer.  You still need time to unwind, and you still need family time.  We’ll shoot for play dates every other week maybe, and I think that should be a good balance.

Missed my post about summer trips to museums?  Check it out here!  And keep watching for my next post in my Planning for Summer series: theme days!

Thinking About Summer: Visiting Museums

A few weeks ago, when we were still seemingly in the midst of Winter, I suddenly had the urge to plan out our summer.  So that’s what I did.  Yep–at the beginning of March, I planned out the months of June, July, and August.  Complete with camp adventures.

We knew a while ago that we were doing camp.  Princess Anna is going to Mom & Me Camp for the first time (and she is already packed!), and Rapunzel is going to “Big Girl Camp” for the first time!  We are all so excited.  But of course these camps are short term, and I have a lot of summer to fill.

I’ll be talking in the next few posts about how I scheduled our summer and will be ending with our summer calendar.  But one of the first things I decided to do was to visit museums.  Our family hasn’t been in a financial position…ever…really to visit any museums at a cost.  And just about all of the museums in our area come with a cost.  This year, we aren’t incredibly well off per se, but we are at least finally able to pay our bills, and I knew that our kids could benefit immensely from visiting museums.

Because museums are quite costly, and because there are few I wanted to visit, Prince Charming and I decided to use any extra money I make on the side to put toward a family membership with a children’s museum that has affiliations across the country.  We went with the Family Plus membership, which allows us admission for 6 people (so we can ALL go!), up to three adult cardholders (so a grandparent can take them too!), guest discounts, free access to members-only events, express entry on busy days, and discounts at the museum store, on birthday party packages, on guest memberships, and guest admissions PLUS 50% off general admission to 200+ member museums.  Even if we only visit each museum once and don’t use any other benefit, we are still saving over $26.

Now Princess Anna has this problem called I-have-to-touch-anything-and-everything-especially-if-Mom-doesn’t-want-me-to.  (Reason #2 why we never really went to museums before.)  That’s why our membership includes admission to museums like Port Discovery, Hands on House, and Please Touch Museum.  Now I can breathe a sigh of relief.  I can’t say for sure if we will do this every year, but at least for this year I am pleased to provide my kids with some active learning at a discount.  And what’s better than having your kids learn while having fun?

Taking Care of Friendship

Today, as I attempted to catch up on the backlog of emails in my inbox, I perused through some of my favorite blogs.  As I was doing so, I happened across a few articles about friendship, the importance of developing friendships, and the like.  It got me thinking.  I don’t like to jump on the bandwagon, but when something speaks to me, I feel I need to write it.  (And by the way, you can check out what I read at incourage at The Art of Simple.)

On the radio the other day, I heard one person ask another what the difference was between her friendships 10 years ago and her friendships today.  Well, 10 years ago I was in my senior year of high school.  I can still remember all of my friends from back then, but I think I knew deep down who was real and who wasn’t.  Sure I had my “friends”, but then there are always FRIENDS–you know, real friends.  The ones who wanted me around even though I didn’t want to smoke, drink, and have sex.  The ones that would come to all the sporting events with me or just walk around the mall.

As is no surprise, I haven’t seen most of my “friends” since I graduated high school.  There’s the one I fell away from, the one I’m always talking to, and the one I wish I talked to more.

Then you go to college, make a bunch more superficial friends and a couple of keepers.  I have two of the keepers.

But then you graduate from college and you enter real life: get a job, get married, have kids…and somewhere among the diapers, the milk, the laundry, the soccer games, and the instrumental concerts, you lose touch.  Your friends are two hours away in a new place and you want to be there with her during this transition but you can’t get away long enough to even see her place.  Or she’s three hours away, and you get to see her once–maybe twice a year when you take vacation with your family.  Or she’s just about an hour away but she works full time on the night shift, and the only time you get together is with the kids–which they love (the kids and your friends!), but all you want is some real grown up time sometimes.  Even the friends you make through your kids’ friends (moms unite!) are out of reach most days–they have busy schedules too.

I miss my friends.

Take some time to read Jennie Allen and Tsh.

And then take the time to pursue meaningful friendships.  Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, whether you feel like the frazzled mom with no friends or the laid back mom with a million, call up a friend or send her an email–whatever it takes to refresh those precious friendships.  Male or female, single or married, ten kids or no kids.  We need those friendships in our lives.  We were made for friendships.  So pursue them.  Cultivate them.  And then tell us how you did it.

And while you’re at it, pin this prayer from Elisa Pulliam.  Or print it.  Or just visit it over and over again and pray it every time you see it.  You’ll be glad you did.  And so will they.

The Prayer of a Friend