As promised in my last blog, I am going to share some details of my family’s summer with you. One of the things I feel strongly about is not letting my kids spend hours on their screens every day. Yes, there are some awesome educational activities on electronics, but for the most part, our kids are not engaged in these activities.
Below is our list of “Before Screen Time Activities.” My daughters must complete these before they are allowed to play on their phones, watch a movie, or be involved in any other screen time. I hope if you were looking for ideas that our list inspires you to create a list that works for your family.
I’ve included a link at the bottom of the post where you can get a copy of a ‘pretty’ version to print out.
This is such an important meal for growing (and aging) bodies. It is important to me that my girls get a healthy start to their day. They are old enough to make their own breakfast, so I don’t have to be in charge of that. I will encourage them to eat a variety of things so we don’t get hooked on a “cereal every morning” path.
QUICK PICK UP
This is a quick run through on our main floor to make sure that all of their stuff has been put away. I prefer this to be done in the evening before bed, but sometimes…life happens.
AT LEAST ONE CHORE
We have daily and weekly chores. Daily chores include things like setting/clearing the table, unloading the dishwasher, and feeding the dog – most of which are done in the evening, so it would be hard to check this one off early in the day. Weekly chores are bigger and these are the ones I expect to be done for this list. Some examples of our weekly chores include doing laundry (my girls have been doing laundry since they were 4!), vacuuming, mopping, cleaning their bathroom, and making a healthy dinner for our family.
READ 30+ MINUTES (something NON-electronic)
My girls love to read but, now that they are older, they don’t read as many ‘fun’ books during the school year. Summer is a great time for them to read for fun. We ask friends what their favorite books are and check out the library summer reading program for ideas, too. Speaking of which, most libraries have a reading program for children of all ages (adults, too) with events and prizes, so make sure to visit your library this summer!
EXERCISE 60+ MINUTES
My girls are very active during the school year with PE, soccer, band, running, Tae Kwan Do, and more. I worry that if exercise is not something intentional this summer, it might not happen. That’s why it is on this list. I’m pretty flexible with what they do (hanging out at the pool, running, playing soccer, walking the dog) and I will allow them to listen to their electronics while exercising.
WRITE 15+ MINUTES
I went back and forth on how long I wanted ‘writing’ to be. The goal is to encourage 30 minutes of writing, but I don’t think that is realistic every day. I will provide my daughters with a fun basket full of stationary, stickers, colorful pens and envelopes. They can write letters to grandparents, family, friends, or they can create poems, stories, or scavenger hunts. If they get stuck, I also have a lot of writing prompts.
PRACTICE INSTRUMENT 30+ MINUTES
When my girls were young, they would earn one minute of screen time for each minute of violin practice and one minute for each song they played. It was a great motivator and they really didn’t spend much time on screens. At that time, most kids did not have their own cell phones so I could regulate when the tv/video was on or when they played on the computer.
Now, cell phones are how kids communicate with each other, mostly texting, not actually talking on the phone. It is their way of “play” so I am a little less strict. However, some of you reading this will think my rules are crazy strict. 🙂 I do try to limit their screen time, as you might have guessed by this list. My hope is to get my daughters engaged in other activities, so they reach for their phones/screens less often.
GO OUTSIDE 30+ MINUTES
It’s summer! I always tell my kids that I am extremely generous with sun screen (slop it on). I’m a lot less generous with chocolate! Being outside is something that can be done in conjunction with many of the other activities (i.e., exercising, reading, writing).
ASK: “WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP YOU?”
I want my kids to learn that they are part of the family and that means participating in everything. Some days I might have big tasks to answer this question (help clean the basement) while other days the tasks could be relatively small or easy (give me a hug! Bake chocolate chip cookies).
Click on the link below to download a PDF:
Summer Break is coming!
For some parents this is an exciting time. You look forward to hanging out with your kids, having a more flexible schedule, and getting to travel.
For others, the thought of having your kids home full time and the lack of structure strikes terror in your hearts!
I am very much a parent who looks forward to not having to get up super early to pack lunches and send my kids off to school every morning. I’m also looking for a break from the hours I spend in my car driving to multiple activities after school and on the weekends. However, I am anticipating a lot of together time which can occasionally lead to fighting, messes and sibling squabbles. Ugh!
So what can you do?
Be intentional. Take a few moments, maybe before the kids get out of school, and think about what it is that you want for this summer. What do you want for your family? What do you want for your child(ren)? What do you want for you?
By thinking about what you want, you will be able to lay out a game plan for the summer. Here are a few of the things I have planned that might help you get intentional about your summer. Feel free to check in with me at the end of the summer to see if I actually accomplished these goals and had an intentional summer!
Bucket List: By creating a Bucket List, I will get input from everyone in the family as to what is important to them to make this feel like a great summer. I anticipate some of these items being big (travel, amusement parks, camping) while other items can be quite simple yet meaningful quality time (picnic lunch, paint toenails, eat s’mores). One of the things my family is great at doing is brainstorming. I will have to be careful not to put too much on our Bucket List. I want this to be a fun and enjoyable summer, not a stressful one.
Free Time: I want my kids to be creative and use their imagination. This means, I want them off electronics, so they can be out exploring and creating. I plan to create a “Before Screen Time Activities” List (see next week’s blog where I will provide you with my list and examples). One of the things on this list will be 30+ minutes of creativity each day. Are you sensing a theme here? I happen to be a list person…
Responsibility: I am a big believer in teaching kids to grow into responsible adults. All kids can and should do chores to learn how to be successful in life. By teaching kids how to do chores, they learn responsibility and life skills. These chores can become habits that will continue on through the school year reducing mom and dad’s workload (=stress levels) and allow us to have more family time together. Daily and Weekly chores will be added to the “Before Screen Time Activities” List.
Together Time (also known as Quality Family Time): I’m looking forward to more game nights! During the summer, we are not rushing in 100 directions after school and on the weekends. We’re able to spend more time together. For us, playing board games is a fun way to do this. We’ve also spent time hanging out reading together outside, going for hikes, and volunteering together. I’m going to look at our Bucket List and try to make sure we have at least one “Together Time” activity each week.
Special Time (also known as Quality Parent-Child Time): Spending One-on-One time with each of your children is priceless. I know this can seem challenging when you have a lot of kids, and especially during the school year when you are running in multiple directions at once. However, summer is a great time to schedule One-on-One time with your kids. Really take time to get to know them at this age. What do they love? Is something bothering them right now? What are they successful at doing? Is there something they are struggling with and how can you help guide them to overcome this struggle? What is a special trait they want to work on (courage, kindness, self-discipline)? What dreams do they have?
My daughters will be going to different camps this summer, so I anticipate a full week with each of them as “only” children. I hope to fill those with a lot of Mother-Daughter Special time. Looking at our Bucket List, I plan to pick one bigger activity and a few smaller ones (cooking a meal together, walking the dog) with each daughter during her week. We will definitely aim to spend Special Time together at least once a week throughout the summer, not just during the “only child” week.
Me Time: I saved this for last because it can often be the hardest one for me to do, but I need to, and so do you. Self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity for us to be good mothers, good partners, and good citizens in this world. By taking care of me, I can fill up my emotional, mental, spiritual and physical ‘bank accounts’ and be better able to take care of others. By taking care of me, I am modeling self-care for my daughters. I would like this to become a necessary part of their beings, not something they struggle to squeeze in or feel guilty doing.
I’m sure that some of my Me Time might include my daughters directly or indirectly. If I plan a lunch date with a friend, we might have our kids in tow and let them sit at a nearby table. If I’m wanting a pamper session, I might invite my daughters on the back porch to paint nails or make fruity facials. However, I will get to pick the music, it is my Me Time after all! Some of my Me Time activities will be just for me (solo or date night with my husband or a girls night out).
There you have it! My intentional summer game plan outlined above. The one thing I didn’t mention is that once my family has created our Bucket List, I will take all of those ideas and anything else I have (Free Time, Together Time, etc.) and start putting them on the calendar.
I know some of you are saying that you love the flexibility and looseness of summer and can’t wait to ignore your calendars for a few months. For me, and for many of the families I have worked with, scheduling things makes the summer easier. There is a better chance that we will realize our intentions if we put them on the calendar. We’ll still have the flexibility to change things as needed, but if it’s on the calendar, it is more likely to happen.
Hey! Since you read this far, I have a special gift for you! Enter your name and email in the circle below to receive my eBook: Top 10 Tips for Surviving Summer Break
My youngest daughter provided me with a brand new, unforgettable Mother’s Day experience this year!
The day before Mother’s Day was wonderful. I volunteered at the MS Walk in the morning with my Girl Scout troop. When I got home, my older daughter had finished the laundry and washed the dishes! Then I got to volunteer with my younger daughter, helping the local Food Bank collect food from the National Postal Workers Food Collection.
When we got home, the dog had already been fed. We were off to celebrate a former babysitter’s graduation from college. This meant that we not only got to celebrate but also that I didn’t need to make dinner (happy dance)! To wrap up this great day, my family went to the Wind Symphony. This is always wonderful, but this time they featured Rhapsody in Blue, one of my favorite classical pieces. After the show, we enjoyed visiting with a few band members (my daughters’ music teachers) and some close friends. But the day was not over yet. I was treated to my daughters playing, or attempting to play, duets with new music they just bought that day. The evening lasted much later than planned, but I couldn’t interrupt the joyful sound of music and laughter coming from the other room!
And then Mother’s Day happened.
M in ambulance
In last week’s post, I wrote how often times Mother’s Day dreams and expectations can be derailed. This is especially true if we do not make our wishes known or have unrealistic expectations. I knew that this year I would be spending most of my day at the soccer field. I decided not to plan or expect anything other than some time with my family. My husband had a game at 11 and we did not have enough time to get home for lunch before my daughter’s team warmed up. And while it wasn’t a fancy Mother’s Day meal, Subway was still lunch I didn’t have to prepare (another happy dance).
The first game went as well as can be expected in what my husband refers to as the “Old Man’s League.” There were no major injuries or fights, so we consider that a win! And my husband’s team did actually score one goal more than the other team, but it is really not about winning for most of the players in this league. It’s about not getting hurt, having fun/exercising, and then hanging out with adult beverages after the game. Yes, in that order.
The second game, my daughter’s game started and the teams seemed pretty well matched and determined to win. Towards the end of the game, the other team was up by 1. Then we heard some thunder and I glanced up to see the lightning in the far distance. When I looked back, Megan was down. She started to get up and then rolled over back onto the ground. It looked like she was holding her arm. Not the arm she broke (humerus bone) playing soccer in the Fall 2016 season, the other one.
She didn’t get up and the coach was called. She appeared to be talking but was not moving. I know they were telling her to be still, but she wasn’t moving her legs at all. No words can accurately describe the feeling of watching that from a distance. My stomach varied from butterflies (maybe it was nausea?) to what felt like crushed glass rolling around. My heart was in my throat, my breath being held and my brain was screaming for Megan to at least move a little so I would know she was going to be OK. Someone from the other team left the sidelines and went to help and then my husband, who had been standing down at that end of the field went on. I waited for them to call me over
After what seemed like an eternity, I didn’t wait for the call and I went out. They thought at that moment was that she had possibly pinched a nerve in her neck. She could move all of her extremities, but her entire left side hurt. I had a flashback to the season where she was kicked in her left leg and ended up with nerve damage. She was eventually diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. It wasn’t pretty, but it was much better than what was flashing through my mind moments earlier on the sideline.
Mother’s Day 2018 was not at all what I expected – but I did get to spend a LOT of time with my younger daughter. We experienced a lot of “Firsts” together. We had our first ambulance ride. Megan had her first IV, visit to the ER, her first CAT Scan, her first CT arterial Scan and her first MRI… she also got to spend 9 hours in a C Collar to prevent her from moving her neck while the trauma team tried to figure out what was going on. Megan couldn’t eat or drink until the results came back. Besides the uncomfortable C Collar and a sense of restlessness from lying around and only being able to see the ceiling for hours, not being able to eat and drink was probably the hardest part for her. She hadn’t eaten since noon, just played most of a tough soccer game and was very tired, hungry and thirsty.
After checking into the pediatric wing of the hospital at 1:30 am and waiting for the trauma doctor to bring results, the collar was removed and Megan was allowed to eat and drink. We celebrated with chicken strips and fries at 2:30 am.
The good news, ALL SCANS were within normal range. They aren’t really sure what happened or is happening, but there was nothing that the trauma doctors and neurosurgeons could see that scared them. Megan was to remain under close watch for 24 hours. It seems as if my soccer player has a common football injury known as a “stinger” (brachial plexus injury). It will be a bit of work (PT) and a while before she is back to her active self again, but she should be fine.
As I sit in the hospital waiting for the final doctor visit and our release papers, I will gladly admit, I did not see that Mother’s Day adventure coming! I am so grateful for Megan’s health and lack of severe injury. I am grateful to the doctors, nurses, and hospital staff who provided excellent care during our 23+ hours with them. I am grateful to the concerned parents and players on both sides of the field. I am also grateful to the EMTs and Firefighters who took care of Megan on the field and kept a sense of humor (taking the picture in the ambulance) so I could remain composed and so Megan wouldn’t be as scared.
I was held together by our extended family and friends who continued to text and support us during the wee hours of the morning. It helps that my sister’s family lives in a time zone that is 9 hours ahead! And even though I am not proud to say this, I was also grateful that my daughter could text and connect with her friends through social media. It really helped distract her, although my arm did get tired holding the phone in a position over her face so she could see it. Megan was not able to see the TV with her neck in the C Collar so her friends provided entertainment and support.
So parents, please hug your babies of all ages close tonight. Everything can change in a second. I know I talk about the Self-fulfilling prophecy a lot. Look for the good in your child(ren) and you will find it. You will also find more of the good and less of the other stuff if you are actively looking for the good. It’s in there!
TUESDAY FOLLOW UP
Since I didn’t get a chance to post this on Monday, here is a brief “Follow Up.”
We haven’t heard anything about Megan’s lower body – and now that I can stop and think things through a little more clearly, I’m realizing they didn’t do any lower body scans. We’ll follow up at her doctor’s appointment on Friday. However…
Amazingly as of today, the Tuesday after Mother’s Day, Megan is back at school! She’s using crutches and has access to an elevator. She is still very weak on her entire left side, but her arm is much stronger. She is able to use crutches to and from classes as long as she rests during class. I’m on call for when she needs to leave early. She will be missing the Biking Unit in an elective class that she is re-taking because she missed it last year when she broke her humerus… but she IS up and moving! We are so thankful!!!
As we approach Mother’s Day, I thought I would share a few thoughts about why this amazing day can be so frustrating! Don’t get me wrong – it can be a super day, too! But I hear from so many moms about how disappointed they were on Mother’s Day. My goal is to help you avoid being disappointed and to really enjoy your day.
Recognize who we are celebrating…YOU!
That being said, if you want the day to go well, you know what you need to do. Plan it. Yes, I know that doesn’t sound like the day you were envisioning, but keep reading, I’ll explain.
Be mindful of your expectations.
Do this as much for you as for your kids.
The media does a great job making Mother’s Day out to be this amazing, flowery, perfect family kind of day. Their job is to sell a product and they appeal to our emotions and dreams to do so. Remember that you are only getting a piece of the whole picture. When you see all the happy pictures your friends are posting on Instagram or Facebook… you only get to see the cream of the crop, the best of the best. Please be mindful of your expectations and keep perspective when viewing anything in the media.
Some mothers have partners, parents, or friends who will help their children create a wonderful Mother’s Day. Many mothers, have real human beings who try to do something, sometimes at the last minute, or possibly even forget to celebrate at all.
So, it is important to teach your children about your expectations for the day. Be specific in asking for what you want. If you want them to bring you breakfast in bed make sure you start asking them a few days in advance to do so. Again, be specific with your meal request – do you want omelets or cereal? Teach them how to make you happy by letting them know exactly what you want. Obviously, there is no guarantee that they will get it exactly perfect, but there’s a much better chance that they will come close.
I’m super fortunate that my girls (with much help from my husband when they were little) liked to bring me breakfast in bed. My girls love to make pancakes with their dad, so that was what they brought up to me. During the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, whenever we had pancakes, I would mention how much I liked chocolate chip pancakes and fresh strawberries..so that is often what they would bring me. What I really wanted was 5-6 more hours of sleep, but I couldn’t pass up the joy on those sweet little faces!
If this all seems a bit overwhelming, it might be time to create new rules for Mother’s Day in your house. Maybe you decide everyone will help you cook your favorite meal. Maybe you take your kiddos shopping and show them three things you would really like as a gift from them for Mother’s Day. Let them choose which one they want to give you (and then go buy it!).
In an earlier blog post, I talked about how my daughters and husband plant our garden for spring. I’m not a huge veggie fan, so I leave that up to them… However, I do love flowers! A tradition we have on Mother’s Day, is for my daughters and I to plant our container flower gardens.
This is a way for me to spend time with the two beings who made me a mother, doing something I like to do and will enjoy seeing for weeks to come. When I have my act together, I will take the girls out during the prior week to pick out flowers they want to plant with me on Mother’s Day. However, there have been some years, when I have just picked out the variety of flowers I wanted and let them choose which ones to put in the containers we were planting together.
Your children can’t read your mind and they don’t know what you want or expect. Your children also don’t want to feel like they missed a holiday. They are less aware of the calendar and how to celebrate Mother’s Day. Make sure you have realistic expectations and that you are specific with your requests.
With a little planning, you can have a great Mother’s Day.
So, go out there and celebrate YOU!!!