Do you have plans for the summer? Help for parents who work from home

“Bees’ll buzz, kids’ll blow dandelion fuzz
And I’ll be doing whatever snow does
In summer
A drink in my hand, my snow up against the burning sand
Prob’ly getting gorgeously tanned
In summer”

Even Olaf the snowman is excited about summer!!!

Every home in America that has school-aged kids or teachers living in them is counting down the days until summer vacation.

As exciting as it is for everyone, it doesn’t take long until the whining begins,

“I’m bored!”  (In our family the use of the word “bored” is actually treated the same as profanity)

“What can I do?”

“I’m hungry!”

I truly believe my kids eat twice as much in the summer and I KNOW I do more dishes.

For parents who work from home, which my husband and I do, it can be even more difficult because your kids and all your friends and neighbors often think you are available to entertain.

Last summer I was geared up for being a perfect work-from-home mom.  I had centers, I had been collecting educational activities, I had my husband on board, I had created a daily schedule, and we even began practicing the schedule before the school-year ended.

But it was still hard!  There was a little too much bickering and I heard a little too much of the whining I was hoping to avoid.

I will do a few things differently this year:

1. Send them to camp (not for the whole summer but  4 weeks to space out the summer so we can appreciate each other when we are back together again.)

2. Use an adjustable daily schedule like this one I made

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Adjustable Daily Summer Schedule

Last year I think our schedule was too rigid; if we had a change in the schedule I couldn’t communicate that as easily to the kids.  This new schedule has some firm spots (like resting time, mealtimes, and chores) but much more room to move things around for a rainy day, a playdate, etc.  I have a few more posters that I can swap out too!

(Here’s another blog with a great schedule idea:  http://thrivinghomeblog.com/2013/05/how-to-make-your-summer-at-home-with-kids-count-part-1/#_pg_pin=498031)

3.  Utilize SOME paper plates (sorry environmentalists out there but I can only mentally handle doing dishes if its under 3 hours a day!!!)

4.  Be more realistic!  I’m sure this will not be perfect, but I will learn and tweak as I go.

What are your strategies for keeping summer fun, productive, and free of whining?

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A Response to “Scary Mommy: The Rules for Visiting a New Mom”

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Should there really be rules for visiting a new mom?

I recently came across this post that went viral on Facebook and other places:

http://www.scarymommy.com/rules-for-visiting-a-new-mom/

She details a variety of ways to be a more encouraging friend to new moms when you visit them.

Altogether we would generally do well to take her advice, but as the old saying goes, “do as I say, not as I do,” she seems to encourage a generous and gracious spirit but writes with an entitled and judgmental tone.

While I agree that visitors would do well to bring the food or gifts that the family needs rather than the food or knick-knacks she wants to bring, do we really need to list rules for how to visit and show love?

Don’t these expectations set us up for hurt feelings and judgement?

Aren’t these unreasonable expectations?  We are the ones who chose to have babies.  It really isn’t someone else’s responsibility to feed and clothe them.

Is it really so bad that someone is so excited that she is thinking more about seeing the baby and offering emotional support than providing us with leftovers?

I truly appreciated the girlfriends who brought enough food for leftovers, the ones who brought extra gifts that were practical rather than plants or teddy bears, but that’s not really the point.

The point is that if we want to encourage generosity and grace in others, we should expect it of ourselves, even in our speech.

So I won’t give rules but I will offer 3 pieces of advice:

1-Ask the mother what she wants from you.

2-Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

3-Love covers over a multitude of sins.

XO

 

Crying Over a Cup of Tea

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Every year on the Friday before Mother’s Day, my children’s preschool has a beautiful Mother’s Day  Tea and musical program.  I have been attending the tea for more than 5 years and I have grown to dread it!

Its adorable to see a two-year old sing “You Are My Sunshine” dressed up like a sun complete with yellow tutu and sunglass hair bow.  All of the children are totally cute with their clumsy little hand gestures and of course there’s always the unpredictability of young children going off script that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

But I always end up crying.  I don’t mean, I get a little teary-eyed.  I mean I cry until my nose is red and my face is swollen.

This has happened for the last three years.

For me, the adorable and sweet music that brings happy tears combined with the sadness that the tea party was something I used to attend with my mom is an emotional cocktail that I can’t completely handle.  My mind starts skipping through my memories of my mom directing children’s choirs and even preparing me for my first stage solo as a five-year old, and the emotion pushes me over every time.

This past year I was really concentrating on enjoying my tea, snapping a few pictures, and recording a couple of videos without all the tears.  (That’s usually how I handle difficult situations.  Mother’s Day, Christmas, mom’s birthday…I prepare myself in advance for the possibility of sadness and generally cruise through knowing she would want me to enjoy my life with my own kids.)

This year was supposed to be different, I was going to have a peaceful time.  But no!  I made a fatal error, I misread the invitation start time and instead of showing up at what I thought was twenty minutes early to get myself calm and ready, I showed up as my daughters class was walking on stage.  She got there just in time to go on without her pretty little costume.  I felt awful; guilty and embarrassed for messing up on the time and sad and emotional from all the sappy Mother’s Day songs.  I was such a mess I ran out crying leaving my purse behind.

I recovered by Mother’s Day, but after three painful years I have some great pictures and videos but I can honestly say, I have a love-hate relationship with that tea party!

 

5 Things that will Help Your Toddler Embrace Becoming a Big Brother or Sister

For some toddlers the addition of a new little brother or sister can be exciting.  For others, it can feel like an intruder.  And for mom and dad it can be overwhelming to watch your time divide even further.  Here are a few tips for a smooth transition:

 

1-Gift-Giving

There are so many ways you can help your older child look forward to his new little brother or sister through small, inexpensive gifts.

Make a Big Brother or Big Sister T-shirt together to wear to the hospital.

Take big brother to Build-a-Bear Workshop to make a special bear, bunny, or other friend for his new little sister.

Have a gift at the hospital to give big sister from her new sibling.

During the end of the pregnancy give a big-kid gift to your little guy to show he is not a baby anymore.  We gave this piggy-bank that emphasized responsibility to our son when his first sister was born:

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2-Read Together

Reading is a great tradition.  When I had my second child and was still in the hospital the first night, I did a full bedtime routine including reading a story to my toddler.  We read A Bad Case of Stripes.  He picked the book and brought it to the hospital to have me read.  It helped him know he was still important and his routines weren’t going to be disrupted by this invader.

Before the baby is born check out some of the great children’s stories available that give your child a little bit more of a concrete idea about what it will be like to have a new baby in the house.  I think we’ve read Berenstain Bears’ New Baby and The New Baby from The Little Critter Series at least fifty times each.

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3-Special Plans for the First Weeks Home

For my kids, a new baby in the house has meant FUN, FUN, FUN!  In the months leading up to the birth, we lined up play-dates, grandparent fun days, pool days, library trips etc.  It was like summer camp!

4-Get Some Help

For most toddlers just a few minutes of your undivided attention will go a long way.  Get somebody who loves newborns as much as I do to hold your little bundle while you get down on the floor and build a block city or sip on some pretend tea out of a plastic cup with your older child.

5-Pray Together

I read a quote today that I loved by Alan Redpath:  “when God is at the center, self is destroyed,  and love begins to reign.”  Ultimately, we want our children not just to coexist and tolerate one another, but really love each other.  Get your little guy or girl to start praying for his new baby sister or brother.  Help him with the vocabulary to consider being a protector of the new baby, to think about how to serve you and his new baby sister or brother.  Allow your son or daughter to consider how amazing God is for creating this new being that you haven’t even met yet.  Toddlers are notorious for being selfish.  Help your son love his new sibling and that will be enough!

Congratulations on your new baby and on moving toward being outnumbered by your children!

Its More Important to Paint Your Daughter’s Toenails than Clean Your House

The house I grew up in looked like it was ready to be photographed for a catalog at all times.  It wasn’t that we had a lot of money, my mom and dad just had a great eye for design and  they could DIY anything before DIY was cool!

A scenario that best describes the environment I was accustomed to goes something like this: I brought a group of friends home from college my freshmen year.  Within two steps of entering the door, a guy friend half-serious says, “are we allowed to use the toilets?”

Another time, my parents offered to babysit for a family friend and pile all five of us kids into the friends’ house so the other parents could go out.  While they babysat, they decided to take the time to reorganize the other family’s furniture!  When the couple returned they were obviously surprised to find their house looking completely different, but kept the upgrade.

What’s my point?

My point is I was shocked when my always-perfect-mom advised me, “enjoy your kids and don’t worry about cleaning your house!”  at my second baby shower.

“Who are you and what have you done with my mother?” I blurted out!

I believe in keeping an orderly home, but it was very liberating to know that if my mom could’ve gone back for a do-over she would have spent more time enjoying us, her kids, and less time keeping a picture of perfection.

Even though my mom eventually gave me the sage wisdom that my kids are more important than a spotless house, she didn’t give up on perfection completely.  She always believed in a perfect pedicure.   As she spent the last eight months in and out of the cancer center and homebound, she always checked to see if my toes were painted.  She checked to see if the paint was chipped and whether the nail bed was nicely filled.  I became her personal pedicurist when she was too sick to trust nail salons.

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Paint your daughter’s toenails!   I’m sure the time you spend will be a treasured memory…one day she may paint yours too!

 

Stomach virus update: DON’T LICK THE GERMS!

Well my plan worked, sort of. 

The only problem was that the baby got excited about my daughter’s cup of Gatorade (a rarity in our house) and she decided to lick the germs of my daughter’s cup when we weren’t looking.  So she had a little tummy-ache a few days later.  But no one else got sick.  She was fine within 12 hours.

I guess I should have included this to the list of what to do or not do for a stomach virus:

DO NOT LICK THE GERMS OF THE SICK PERSON’S CUP.

 

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You’re welcome!

Inspire Your Kids to Be Readers

One of the most surprising parts of starting this blog has been the interest that my own children have in reading my writing.  All of them ask me daily if I have written another post.  They laugh and relish figuring out which kid I am writing about.

In particular my son (8 years old) will read my posts, give me feedback, and offer suggestions.  One post is never enough, he is always begging me to post something else.  So in his honor, this is a post about some of the things we have done that I think have helped inspire our kids to become readers.

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1-We are readers.  We read nonfiction, fiction, magazines, social media, and our Bibles daily.

2-We read to the kids.  From the time they were newborns we have been reading to the kids.  We read poetry, old books, new books, books with pictures, books without pictures.  Right now our favorites are the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.  They are learning so much history and culture from these older books.  Its so fun to discuss a time from 100 years ago with them.

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3-We tell stories.  We make up stories about things we see happening in the world.  We also take books we’ve read many times and pretend the pictures are telling a different story altogether.  We insert their names into favorite stories letting them take on the characters.

4-We use voices.  When we read short stories we love making up accents, reading slowly, reading quickly, reading softly, reading loudly.  Its an event!

5-We make reading a privilege.  Reading is an excuse to stay up past bedtime, reading means spending extra family time together.  Books are a special treat.

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And now I can add to the list that, because of this blog, we read to them about themselves.  I cherish the blog my mom kept toward the end of her life; it helps keep her memory alive.  I hope someday my kids can reread my thoughts and remember the story of their lives.

Happy Reading!

 

Yuck, its a stomach virus! Please learn from my mistakes!

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I was not planning on writing a post about this nasty subject anytime soon, but, unfortunately, it’s what we are dealing with today.

So since I’m quarantined in the house and pretty much relegated to laundry and bleaching surfaces, I thought I’d share the things I have learned over the years (besides asking the elders to come pray over my kids :-)) about this icky topic.

1-Stomach virus germs spread fast so keep them under control!!!

I know this doesn’t seem like a big tip, but for me it has changed the “order of operations” for dealing with theses viruses.  Do you remember in math class-“P.lease E.xcuse M.y D.ear A.unt S.ally”?  If you went out of order everything could go wrong even if you had all the correct components.

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Our early attempts to overcome this kind of yuckiness were total FAILS.

Oh I had the components.  I knew enough to abide by the sacred “BRAT diet” (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast).  I knew that I needed to offer electrolyte solution. I knew I needed to clean up the mess.  But in the early years I was getting the ORDER all wrong.  I would panic that my children were getting dehydrated and give the food or drink too soon and trigger more vomiting.  That, of course, would trigger more germs which would then spread and we’d all end up sick.  I would end up with a pile of laundry the size of The Rockies and not just a couple of hills.

It was so sad one year when we got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay one night at the beautiful Animal Kingdom Lodge with some of our best friends, but ended up dealing with 24-hours of vomiting instead.

Regretfully, at the first sign of a problem I began racing to heal my baby and I did it ALL WRONG!  I started trying a little white rice, a little ginger ale, a little gatorade; I was DESPERATE TO fix the problem and get back to the fun.  What I was really doing was messing with my little one’s poor tummy and making it worse!  We went through about a dozen towels and half-a-dozen sets of sheets!  PLEASE LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!

After a night of misery, I surrendered that our Disney Dreams for the next day were not going to be realized and I called the pediatrician.  The nurses instructed me to stop giving my child anything (food or water) for two hours so that her stomach could calm down.  Then I was told to reintroduce the electrolyte solution 1 tsp at a time every 15 minutes (as long as there was no more vomiting) to begin rehydrating her.  If she did okay with that for a few hours then I could move on to more frequent fluids, and then the BRAT diet.

The prescription worked and that’s the order I have followed ever since:  I always wait a few hours from the first episode before offering any food or drink.  Then give small sips at a time with 15 minute breaks in between sips.

(Please contact your own health care provider for your own circumstances; dehydration can be very serious).

All I’m saying is I learned that trying to immediately use food and drink to FIX the virus or address hydration was NOT the way to go.

(I’m just a mom, not a doctor OK?)

The moral: in order to rehydrate your child you could be stimulating more vomiting, increasing the spread of germs in your house, and putting other family members at risk.

2-Probiotics are AMAZING!!!

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These “good” germs are becoming so much more readily available.  I used to have to drive 20-45 minutes to get good quality probiotics.  But now we can usually find some at our local grocery or pharmacy store.  A good quality probiotic can help the sick member of your family get back to health a little more quickly.  Equally important, the healthy members of your family can take them according to the instructions on the label and build up a layer of protection from the vile germs that are trying to take over your home!  We try to keep them on hand for these emergencies at all times.  If we could afford it, we’d take some everyday, but for now we take them at the first sign of a friend or family member getting sick.

Today we all took our probiotics and as soon as my sicky had survived several hours without any vomiting episodes, I gave her a spoonful of applesauce with probiotics mixed in.  She kept it down and began acting more like herself within a few hours.

3-A solution of bleach and water in a spray bottle is your new best friend!!!

I learned this little tip from my children’s preschool.  Preschools have very strict guidelines to keep the germs to a minimum.  At ours, each teacher always has a spray bottle with bleach and water for emergencies.  In addition, each bathroom has a bottle for accidents that often occur.

When I was ripped from sleep at 4 am last night I was so grateful that I had my spray bottle ready to go for an (almost) mindless clean up of floors, light switches, and counters.

4-Wash away the germs!!!

Another pretty obvious one, but I mean GO WILD with washing.  At the first sign of puke, my husband instinctively jumped in the shower and I started the laundry.  Once he was out, I jumped in.  Wash, wash, wash your hands, wash them till their clean….

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5-Quarantine!!!

Allow the sick kid to use only 1 bathroom in the house to limit the spread of germs.

 

BE WELL!!!

 

What are your tips for getting over a stomach virus? Or helping your kids cope?