on why I refuse to have a Pinterest summer

Usually about this time I put up this amazing post with amazing charts, a link to my pinterest board filled with fabulous ideas for summer and other ridiculous things that
we.never.do.
In 2011 we tried these jars. Fail. It was exciting for about a week and then it wasn’t.
In 2012 we had great summer schooling plans and implemented these technology punch cards. The schooling never really happened, but the cards were somewhat of a success. It still didn’t curb our drive to go straight to tech when we are bored (mom included) and honestly I got tired of always punching the cards. I also tried to implement this amazingly complicated chore chart. Beautiful yes. Practical no.
Last summer I chilled out a little bit and I really don’t think I even attempted a chore chart. We did have some sort of a schedule and I did have intentions of doing some summer schooling (which never happened) and tech time was loose in the sense that you got an hour after lunch giving us tech free mornings which typically help curb off the grumpies first thing in the morning.

This year, I don’t know if it’s because I’m so burnt out from a busy and overwhelming spring, because my kids are older, because of this post or what. But I started out with some minor ideas including this post-it chore chart. I bought the post-it’s, wrote it all out and even printed the actual post-its. Then reality set in and I realized I didn’t want to keep up with this.

And I gave up on the idea of having a pinterest-worthy summer. I gave up on the idea of filling our summer days up with checklists, calendars, activities pinned from the web and a stack of enrichment activity books. I decided that this year I was going to do what works for us and our family. I wasn’t going to make up all these crazy ideas and force us to be something that we are not. Giving up on the idea of a “pinterest worthy” summer means that you are living your life and what works for you. This is what works for us…

Summer 2014

Yes, it’s still a chart, but honestly it’s a loose one. I’ve got one child who likes to check boxes and another who just likes to have a list to go by. It’s really just a guide for what we need to accomplish during our day. It’s a way for me to hold them accountable to doing a few things before they veg out in front of a screen or a box of Legos.

We are doing some summer enrichment “schooling” and more than likely these will carry over into our after-schooling homework that we do during the school year. (Our schools don’t really do homework, giving us the freedom to do some extra enrichment stuff at home after school). The boy wanted to learn Latin so I splurged on part of a Latin curriculum and for the chick we are working through a simple language workbook.

We are horrible about chores in this house. Really it’s just expected that you will put up your laundry after it’s folded, that you will take the dog out to the bathroom or that you will help empty the dishwasher. It’s just a natural thing we all do in the house. But for the summer I’m trying out assigning each child a dinner chore. One child will feed the dog and the other will set the table and wash it after dinner. We’ll rotate back and forth throughout the summer.

 

Summer 2014

The husband and I rethought our house rules and consequences and condensed them down to two main house rules. Being a peacemaker and following first request. These are our two biggest issues in our house and something we decided to really had to crack down on. We revamped our consequences and so far so good. Before we just sent them to their rooms, but this time they have to write a note of apology to the offended person before they can come out of their room. Remember those post-it’s? It’s a short note, more than just I’m sorry, but no longer than a post it. They aren’t too happy about the consequences, but I think that’s the point.

We had a family meeting after dinner one night and each of use got some tiny post-its to share some items to add to our summer bucket list. It was fun to see what everyone came up with.

In the world of technology, my goal all along as been to figure out how to encourage my kids not to go to tech the first instant they are bored. I’ve tried this in a million different ways and honestly it really comes more from my example. But this summer we are handling it this way. Every year when we do our well child check ups I always have to share how much technology my children get in a day. I always reply around 2 hours. I don’t know if that’s totally sure, but it’s what we strive for. So this summer, each day a child gets 2 hours of screen time to “spend” however and whenever they want. I’m encouraging them to keep up with the math (obviously I am too) and if they want to watch a show or a movie they have to figure out how much they might have left, if any. So far it’s been working great. When the 2 hours is gone, you are done with screens. End of story.

Ultimately I’m trying to create freedom in our days. I agree so much with the article from The Gospel Coalition that with this world of pinterest and blogs and facebook we are honestly living such visible lives that we are wearing ourselves out as mothers. We are engaging with our children just to have a photo-op.  I’m all for schedules and lists, but there’s a point where it’s all just for looks and nothing more. I’m hoping to make a change. I’m longing for a peaceful and fun summer.  And one where we just live life and not life lived through a lens.

Here’s hoping this is the summer.

celebrating 10

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In our house, we flip-flop birthday party years. If it’s your off year for a party, then you have the choice of a special dinner in or out and/or a special family event. This year my son’s tenth birthday fell on an off year. I struggled with not giving him some sort of party for this big double digit birthday. In the end, we opted to celebrate his day by giving him a day of “tens.”

Here’s the way it went!

10 balloons:

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First we decided to decorate his door with a barrage of 10 balloons.

One through 9 scavenger hunt:

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Next up, he had to go through a few different rooms in the house to find the numbers one through nine posted on various photos around the house. The photos were my best to guess of his age in different family photos in the family room and our bedroom. He ended at number ten in front of his breakfast for me to take his ten picture.

Ten donuts on top:

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His special breakfast request was donuts, so we made him a do-nut tower 10 donuts tall. (and no, he didn’t eat all of them in one sitting!)

10 pencils hiding in a pocket:

When he got to school, he had a fun pack of these 10 crazy mechanical pencils I had found at Wal-Mart hiding in his planner. (alas, I forgot a photo of these!)

A lunch of ten:

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For lunch, he requested a hot thermos of soup and then I made a collection of ten things. Each little cup had ten of something in them. Ten mini reese’s cups, ten goldfish, ten pieces of cheese, ten animal crackers, ten pretzels and ten cracker halves.

We ended the day with a great dinner at The Cheesecake Factory and the biggest piece of cheesecake I’ve ever seen!

one size doesn’t fit all

 

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I am a list person. I mean I have a whole page on the blog dedicated to lists. I write the lists to clear my head and to make sure I do things and as a way to make goals and plan. While lists can be good and necessary things, they can also be conforming. There are some things that just cannot be held down to a list. There are some things in life that it would be so nice to just have a checklist (do A and B will be sure to happen), like motherhood. But you know what, there isn’t one.

If there is anything that has driven me crazy lately as a mother in the blogger world, it’s the lists that share do these (and don’t do these) and your children will grow up loving the Lord and desiring nothing more than to be a mother (or father).

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I want my kids to know that I’m the best mother I can be. I am sinful. I am fallen. I do and say more stupid things in a day to my kids than I ever should. I can make a list, fill my house with lists for me and for them, but not one of those things is going to make me a perfect mother or guarantee my children won’t ever get into trouble.  We have boundaries in our house, there are tv shows, music, movies and many other things that we don’t allow into our house. We talk to our children all the time about good choices and to be careful of the things we put into our hearts and minds. We open up our house to others with the hope of sharing Jesus.

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But none of those things is every going to make them perfect…this side of heaven.

So this is my list for making it as a mother:

teach your children God’s word, teach them how to flush out the foolishness in their hearts (and mine), be honest with them, be real to them and with them

but more than anything…pray and teach them to pray.

 

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book review: desperate: hope for the mom who needs to breathe

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Back in April when I had some birthday money I bought up a bunch of books that had been on my list for a while. Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe was one of them. I have read Sally Clarkson on and off for years and honestly have been mostly fascinated with her life. Her personality and approach to life is so opposite my nature; yet how I would long to be (gentle, quiet, kind, creating a beautiful house with flowers and tea parties, etc). Sarah Mae was new to me. In a few words this book baffles me and I’m not really sure how I feel about it.

The book is set up this way: Each chapter begins with a letter from each of them to each other. Then the chapters are essentially an expansion of those letters; one section written by Sarah and one by Sally. Part of what made this book different for me is the reality of the stage of parenting I am in. At the time of writing, Sarah had 3 children under 6. Although I refuse to accept it, my children are nearly 10 and 6. I am truly in a different stage of mothering. My daily struggles with my children and my approach to them are so different than someone walking through life with little people.

But that said, I did walk away with some encouragement. Mainly to accept who our family is and who my children are. I quote Sally:
I would like to encourage you to find freedom and grace to live within the limitations of your own family puzzle in such a way that cooperates with your personality and with the gifts God has given you. There is no one “right way” or formula to follow for every family, mother or child. Live in the freedom of faith and the abundant life Jesus came to provide.

Despite the stage of my mothering, I have to be who I am and who God is molding me into being. I can’t depend on others that I “meet” online or on books that I’ve read to give me a list of characteristics that I can tick off and say “I’ve achieved a good motherhood!” It comes from being in God’s word, surrounding myself with other mothering friends (those younger and older) and prayer. If there is anything that I’m learning on this journey of sanctification called motherhood is that I can’t do this without prayer.

Overall, this book was an easy read. There were some parts of it I kind of wanted to roll my eyes at as it seemed a little hokey. But it is filled with good scripture and asks some good probing questions for journaling at the end of each chapter. There are also QR codes at the back of each chapter you can scan (??) to watch a short video clip of Sarah and Sally. I do think the beginning section was the best for me as it talked about removing the image of what a “perfect mother” really is and being who you are…sin and all.

traditions: memorial day

It’s funny how we’ve tried so hard to create traditions for Advent, Christmas, Easter, birthdays etc in our family, but have done next to nothing for days like today. Today is Memorial Day and both sides of our families have a rich history of serving in the armed forces. I think because it never really effected our lives growing up or our lives right now, we tend to forget how many of our family members fought for our country; some of them even giving their lives.

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This Memorial Day we decided to change that. We woke up early and drove the drive out to my father-in-laws grave and had the kids plant flags at his graveside. We met up with an uncle that we never see and realized how precious time is and how much we take it for granted. We were reminded how there is family out there that we don’t pursue and family out there that we don’t share with our children for all sorts of reasons.

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My father-in-law never knew his son and obviously will never know me or our children, but his service to our country and his giving of his life is an important lesson that we need to celebrate and teach our children to respect and honor.

So for him, for all our uncles and for my dad I say “we celebrate you” and the service you gave.

Happy Memorial Day!

school’s out for the summer…almost

Now that I have the roaring head banging song in your head, I present to you our summer plans. I do a great job of making it look like I have it all together and this summer is no different. This is the last week of school and so I’m hurriedly trying to paste all my last minute ideas together so that next Tuesday (because Monday is a holiday) we are ready and going.

One thing we will do this week is have a “yes” day. I implemented this day as the first and last day of any vacation that we have. It’s a no holds bar kind of day where you can cram your head with as much technology and anything else (within reason) because after that we are on a schedule.

Last year we had this crazy magnet thing that I had come up with. While we kind of held it together in the beginning,  it pretty much all fell apart after a few weeks. It was a little bit too lax and the follow through wasn’t happening.

After spending Christmas vacation with one child who seriously needs some sort of schedule and me realizing that I am going to have to still work on the shop this summer, I knew we would have to have some sort of framework.

summer 2013

So this is what I came up with. A loose schedule filled with assigned days for things and different themed hours in our house. One thing I know that could easily overtake us is technology, so we are going to be very rigorous on this one. Both of my kids are getting to the age where if they are bored they want a screen. Not gonna happen this summer. We also have this Apologia science book that we’ve been talking about doing for at least 2 years and I swear we are going to do some of it this summer. So this is the lay of the land.

1. We have a family calendar hanging up that we will mark off the days as we go. This gives everyone a heads up for what is coming up that is planned for.
2. We have assigned days for things: Monday mornings we will have a chore time. They will be assigned one weekly chore that they will do on Monday mornings. Wednesdays is movie afternoon. Hopefully this helps with the “I want to watch a movie” whines. Friday mornings we will hit the library.
3. We will be unplugged between 8:30 and 1:00. No questions asked. I’m also trying to get rid of the t.v. as soon as you wake up habit. If they do wake up before 8:30, then PBS is totally fine, but if you wake up later than that….too bad.
4. We will have a loose structure to our day: breakfast, school time, work time for me with play time for them, lunch and then the tech hour. During this hour they are free to have whatever screen they desire: Ipod, Ipad, computer, Leapster, Wii…whatever. And then quiet hour. My hope is to have 30 minutes of reading time for all of us and then 30 minutes of quiet time in their rooms. This is more for my sanity than theirs! Then we will hit the pool 🙂
5. Obviously there are days where this won’t happen and to be honest we only have 4 weeks this summer that are totally open (we go to school year round so we have a pretty short summer). But these weeks we are “down” I hope will be pretty routine.

summer 2013

The second thing I did was our bucket list. I have a bunch of things I’ve pinned on my Summer2013 board and many of these ideas came from there. The idea for the mock chemistry board came from here.

summer 2013

I did ours a little differently and color coded the post it notes for free activities (pink), those that involve money (yellow), those that involve planning (blue) and a couple of open spots (green).

I have a tendency to be too structured and then never follow through, so I tried really hard to make this whole thing be a system of guidelines for us. Giving us all space for summer life to happen, but also a little roadmap for those of us that crave that sort of thing.