Friday, May 31, 2013

Kindergarten Lessons

Wow!  We have made it to the last day of kindergarten.  I can hardly believe that an entire school year has passed already.  I remember feeling so nervous and sad when my oldest guy started kindergarten last August.  I couldn't help but wonder how one of my children was entering elementary school.  Where does the time go?!  Now I am about to have a first grader.  Hard to believe!

We've learned some lessons this school year, both good and bad.  While it's always hard for me to send my kiddos out into the world without Mom, it is always a little bit tougher with my oldest guy.  I never quite know what to expect and I find myself full of anxiety and worry about these new milestones.  Kindergarten has produced the most anxiety to this point.  After all, someone else would be responsible for my child for 6.5 hours a day.  On top of that, my concern for his safety with his allergy (and being newly pregnant!) was enough to cause me to lose some sleep!  

Once we got settled into a routine, things got a bit easier.  When he started, he only new one little guy in his class, but soon he was talking about his new friends.  That's the beauty of young children.  They can quickly find a few people that they feel comfortable around and turn that into a friendship in just a matter of days.  Before long I was hearing all about what he and his new friends were doing every day at recess and being badgered to schedule playdates.  

Unfortunately as the year progressed, we started to hear unpleasant stories about a few classmates.  Our child who was so happy to go to school began to cry and tell us how much he hated school and did not want to go.  One child, in particular, continued to pick on our little guy at recess and other times throughout the day.  This produced a great deal of anxiety in him and caused a lot of problems for awhile.  We addressed this problem with his teacher and thankfully it came to an end.  While we are happy that it stopped, it still greatly concerns me that our child had to deal with this at the young age of 5.  It is so unfortunate and I know our son was not alone.

During this year, our little guy learned to read.  He can now sit down and read stories to his siblings and us.  How awesome!  He began to write books (about sports of course!) using a combination of inventive spelling and sight words and developed a love of drawing.  P.E. quickly became his favorite activity at school and he came home telling us how much he loved music class, too.  

At the beginning of the year he couldn't tie his shoes and this was a struggle for much of kindergarten.  Now he can easily do it and rarely asks for help.  He was always good about recognizing situations that might be dangerous for him due to his peanut allergy, but he is advocating for himself and taking all of the precautions that were put in place in stride.  Yes, it singles him out in many situations, but he realizes it is for his safety.  I am so proud of how far he's come.

We've made it through the first year of elementary school.  I am looking forward to not packing a lunch, scrambling to get everyone ready and out the door in the morning, and gathering everyone again at 3:00.  It will be great to get outdoors, have playdates with friends, and hit up some local child-friendly places.  I plan to keep my kiddos busy learning this summer, but it will be fun and child-directed.  We've got quite the summer bucket list and it's time to get at it!  

We made it!  Welcome summer!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Quest for Healthier Food

Not too long ago I wrote about trying to "clean up" the food that we eat.  I've been doing a lot of reading lately, as I know a lot of what we eat, while advertised as healthier, is not.  As I mentioned last time, I have begun to pay more attention to products that contain GMO's.  There is a non-profit organization called The Non-GMO Project and I have been reading the information on their website to learn more about it.  I also follow a website called 100 Days of Real Food and have begun to really read the ingredient lists on the labels of food.     

Over the past week, I began to seek out more organic products in my local supermarkets.  I spent some time looking in the Health Market at Hy-Vee one day and at SuperTarget another.  While eating organic is more expensive, I was pleased to find that if I really put my mind to it, I could incorporate many things into our grocery budget.  While Hy-Vee has a much larger selection, SuperTarget had many products that I was looking for at a cheaper price.  Score for this mama! 

 I also have to carefully watch the allergy information to avoid any tree nut and peanut cross-contamination.  This has always been a problem for cereal and granola bars, but I found a brand that provided options in both of these categories.  I bought Chewy Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin granola bars, as well as some Cinnamon Crunch and Fruitful O's cereal by Cascadian Farm.  I found these at Target (and had never noticed them before!).  While the cereal is more expensive than what we would normally purchase, if we cut back on serving size (instead of a monster portion) and pair it with fresh fruit or a homemade muffin, we shouldn't see a large increase in our budget for cereal.  The kids tried them out over the weekend and loved them!

I am also trying to greatly reduce and ultimately avoid artificial food dyes.  We have a long way to go in this department as it's in many more products than you would ever imagine, but I am starting down that road.  We have swapped our store brand or Kraft macaroni and cheese for Annie's Homegrown.  Switching cereal will also help with this.  We don't eat a lot of fruit snacks, but Annie's Homegrown also makes these.  I have created a Pinterest board to try out some recipes for the favorite kid snacks that we rarely buy anymore.  We are going to try many of these recipes this summer and hopefully some will be successful.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but it's a start.  I would like to find a source of meat and chicken that is healthier than what we can purchase at the supermarket, as well as eggs.  Purchasing these products at the store is quite expensive, so I am on the hunt for an alternative.  Target has a decent selection of organic produce at fairly reasonable prices and Hy-Vee also has a good selection.  

I hope that by reducing the amount of chemicals and genetically altered food into our bodies, we'll see an improvement in our health and maybe, just maybe, even reduce some of the allergies in our home.  I will learn as I go and share any tips I find in case this is something you would like to change in your family as well!  

In case you are curious, this is what I purchased organic this week and where I found it: 

Horizon Organic butter (Target)
Horizon Organic Lactose Free Milk (Target)
Stoneyfield Farm French Vanilla Yogurt (Target)
Stoneyfield Farm Strawberry Yogurt Squeezers (Target)
Cascadian Farm Cereals (Target)
Cascadian Farm Granola Bars (Target)
Earthbound Farm Carrots (Target)

Annie's Homegrown Macaroni and Cheese (Hy-Vee or Target)
Hy-Vee Organic Blue Corn Chips and White Corn Chips
Organic Valley Milk (Hy-Vee)
Gala Apples (Hy-Vee)

Friday, May 24, 2013

It's a BBQ Weekend!

This Memorial Day weekend we'll be grilling rain or shine!  My husband is the master of the grill (if I'm honest, I don't even know how to turn the thing on), so we usually reserve those meals for the weekend.  On Monday we are hosting a BBQ at our house with several friends, so I will be busy making desserts and simple sides.

While we like to grill a variety of things, one of my favorites are pork burgers.  Today I thought I'd share that recipe in case you are sick of hamburgers and looking to try something new!  Obviously it's quite simple:  it's a burger!  Have a great weekend!

Pork Burgers

1 pound ground pork
Your favorite BBQ sauce

Place meat in a bowl and add some BBQ sauce.  Mix around and add more BBQ sauce if necessary.  The meat should stick together well, but not be too saucy.  Make into patties and grill.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Let the Workouts Begin!

After many, many months of not working out, I'm in the clear to get back at it!  While I have some issues with a section of ligament and muscles that are painful and inflamed, I can still get moving again.  After stepping on the scale today at my six week appointment, I realized just how far I have to go.  While I could look at that number on the scale and be down in the dumps a bit, I'm looking at it as how much fun it will be to workout and see the pounds go away (since there are so many to lose!).  Let's face the facts:  I grew another human being for nine months, I ate what I wanted and continue to do so, and now it's time to slowly remove all the extra baggage!  My game plan:  slow and steady with a lot of variety.  Before we moved I was in the best shape of my life, so I have some direction.  I just need to get back on the saddle and into a routine. Sounds simple enough, but I'm thinking it won't be quite that easy!

Goals.  We all need goals, right?  I do much better when I have something to strive for, so my first goal is to run, or maybe run/walk, a 5K in August.  There's a run called Color Me Rad coming to my area and I've seen pictures of people who have participated in something similar and it looks like fun!  Last year I participated in the Dirty Girl Mud Run and had a blast.  That is not a possibility this year (I hope next year!), so this sounded like a good, fun option.  I hope to enlist some friends to join me and make it a fun little girls morning out.

I am going to be working out at home for now, so I plan to incorporate some fitness DVD's as well as using our Wii, as I have The Biggest Loser and Wii Fit, which should give me some options (and who knows, maybe the kids will stay entertained?).  Some ladies in the neighborhood have suggested getting together to walk as often as possible and I would love to add that in as well.  I suppose I'll dust off the old hand weights and bands, too.  I'm excited just writing about it!

So here's to getting back in shape.  I won't be worried about what I look like this summer because it's almost here, but hopefully by next summer I'll be back in shape like I was at this time last year.  It's all an adventure and I plan to enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Half of the Mom I Want to Be

Yesterday my status on Facebook was this:  "Pretty sure I'm the crabbiest mother on the planet..."  Some others tried to claim the title and it inspired me to write this post.

Lately I've been in a bit of a funk.  Some days I wake up that way, others it takes awhile to emerge, but most every day I end up in this little unpleasant place.  I don't believe I suffer from post-partum depression, as it's not that intense, I just end up in this place of feeling crabby, irritable, and discouraged.  By the end of the day I am disgusted with myself and feel like I'm only being about half of the mother that I'd like to be.

Perhaps you have days like these?  You know, the one where it seems like every little thing gets under your skin?  I have great intentions of doing something fun with the kids, but it seems like we get so off-track or there is something that needs to get done around the house or the baby needs my attention that all of the sudden the day is over.  I tell myself that it is okay and that I'll do better tomorrow, but the pattern seems to repeat itself.

I wish I was that mother that loved to get down on the floor and play for hours with her kids.  The truth is, I'm not.  I like to be doing something, like a craft project or puzzle, that has becomes a finished product.  When I was little I played much like my kids:  big imagination, used my animals as people, and had big schemes.  Most of the time, though, I played these scenes out alone.  My oldest prefers to play alone and have us watch and my middle two like to play with each other and would love an adult to play along with them.  I know I should just sit down, if even for ten minutes and just play along, but I have the hardest time doing that.  I get restless, my mind wanders, and I feel like I should be doing something else.  In turn, this leaves me feeling guilty and wondering why I just can't sit down and enjoy it.

I want to be a mom who can get through the day without losing her patience and yelling at the kids multiple times.  A mom who doesn't get annoyed when dirt has been tracked through the house or food is spilled all over the floor.  Right now, it's just not happening.  I used to be much more like that mom, but then something changed.  Most likely it was the additional children we had, but I wanted a big family, so I often wonder why I can't be more like I used to be instead of half of the mom I want to be?

When I think about why I struggle, many times I come back to this:  I have very little time to myself, to be me, to interact with other adults, to enjoy the things I like to do without the kids.  Before we moved I belonged to a gym that I loved, was part of a few mom's groups, had regular play dates with other moms and kids, and even date nights with my husband.  Unfortunately since we've moved, that just hasn't been the case.  While I am to blame for some of it, it's just taking a long time to settle in and figure out where I fit in.    It is something I am going to work harder at and I hope it will lift my spirits a bit.

This post is by no means meant to be a "poor me" rant.  I am just struggling with feeling like I'm not living up to the expectations that I have for myself and truly feel like half of the mom I want to be.  I need to find the other half!  Maybe there are others of you out there that feel the same way.  Maybe some of you have some good ideas to help those of us who are struggling.  Either way, I'd love to hear from ya!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Crocking Monday

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for food and I could eat it all of the trimmings all of the time!  When I had Baby #4, I requested a turkey dinner when we got home.  It was delicious!  To satisfy the cravings, I have incorporated some of the trimmings into my lunch menu.  One of my favorite things to eat is turkey and gravy over mashed potatoes.  Since I'm doing my best to eliminate dairy from my diet, this is one of my go-to recipes.  It's easy and quick if you make the turkey breast ahead of time, chop it up, and freeze it in portions.  I've been making my mashed potatoes with chicken broth instead of milk and it's been working out pretty well.  Here is a simple recipe to make a turkey breast in the crockpot!

Crockpot Turkey Breast

1 turkey breast (I've used bone-in, but can be boneless)
1 can chicken broth
Salt, pepper to taste
Seasoning to taste (Oregano, Poultry Seasoning, Rosemary, Sage); your preference

Place turkey breast in crockpot.  Pour in chicken broth and sprinkle in seasoning.  Cook on low 6-8 hours.  Chop up and eat how you desire.  Very tender!  You can save the broth, add flour, and make your own gravy.

Friday, May 17, 2013

10 Quick Games for Kids

These days I spend a lot of time feeding the baby and while my middle two kiddos play pretty well with each other, there are just some times when I need to calm them down with a little organized fun.  You can find a game in this list that would work in almost any place!

1.  Can You Be A...
Name that animal.  They love this game and as long as there's a big space and noise is okay, this one works well.  Some of our favorites:  kangaroo, monkey, snake, and horse of course!

2.  Ten In the Bed...
There's a song, "Ten in the Bed," that my kids love.  It goes like this, "There were ten in the bed and the little one said, 'Roll Over, Roll Over' so they all rolled over and one fell out!" Repeat until zero.  Whenever I start singing it, the kiddos drop to the floor and start rolling.  Fun!

3.  Pipe Cleaners in a Colander
Self-explanatory!  Drag out your colander and give the kiddos some pipe cleaners.  

4.  Folder Games
You can print these fun games online, glue them in a manilla folder, cover the folder and game pieces in contact paper, and Velcro.  There are games for all abilities or make your own!

5.  Poms in a Muffin Tin
Let your kiddo make their own "cupcakes."  Let them use tweezers to pick them up and work those little fingers!

6.  Sticker Fun:  On Your Body!
Give your kiddos some stickers.  Play like "Simon Says."  Name a body part and have them put the sticker on it!

7.  Freeze!
Get the little ones dancing!  Turn on some music, get them dancing, and pause it.  If you 
don't have music, give them a gross motor skill (hop, gallop, walk, crawl, etc.), let them burn some energy, and and yell "Freeze!"

8.  Snowball Fight!
But not messy!  Throw some poms on the floor, give the kids a straw, and have them blow "snowballs" at each other.  This also works with pieces of tissue paper if you don't have poms on hand.  My kids like to play hockey with them, too, and shoot them into a goal!

9.  I Spy
A classic game, but give it a twist.  Depending on your child's level, you can spy colored objects, an object that starts with a letter, or an object that rhymes with a word.  Mix it up and you'd be surprised how long this entertains!

10.  Sticker Names
Write your child's name on a piece of paper and let them make it with stickers.  You could also work on numbers, letters, sight words, you name it!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Post-Pregnancy Fun

In a few weeks I'll be able to workout again.  I haven't worked out much since I found out I was pregnant, because I didn't feel great this time around.  I am looking forward to relieving some stress and dropping some of these pounds (hopefully!), but am afraid finding the time to do this will be tough.  I'm going to try to set some goals, though not too high at this point, and work at it each week.  The gym we belonged to doesn't take infants this small, so it may take some creativity on my part and take place either early morning or later at night.  If you have any at home workouts you enjoy, I'd love to hear about them!

Of course dropping these pounds means eating healthier, but making sure I eat enough calories for both of us.  I am not a fan of eating plain vegetables, cooked or raw, but love them in things.  My goal is to make a pot of soup each week and have it on hand for lunch.  I plan to make some of my go-to favorites like Chicken Noodle, Tuscan Chicken and Vegetable Beef , but am also going to try recipes I found for Olive Garden's Minestrone and Pasta Fagioli.  To get my daily fruit, I'll make smoothies in the morning with a base of bananas, strawberries, and apple juice.  I'll then add pineapple or blueberries depending on what I have on hand.  Normally I would also include french vanilla yogurt, but will leave out because of my dairy elimination diet.

Vitamin Packed Fruit Smoothie

Late last week I thought I'd treat myself to an early Mother's Day present and buy some shirts.  I am tired of going to my closet, staring at the clothes, and realizing that none of them fit!  I'm over wearing maternity shirts, especially now that they really don't fit, but cannot wear any of my things from last summer.  After striking out with what I bought at Target and Kohls, I hit up Old Navy.  Luckily after trying a few styles on, I found one "dressier" looking shirt and another style that worked.  I couldn't help but laugh, though, as my mantra when shopping for clothes post-baby is this:  if you find one that works, but it in a bunch of colors.  I don't have time to shop around, so that is what I did!  

So, if you live near me or see me on a regular basis, don't be surprised if you see the same v-neck in a rainbow of colors!  :)

Friday, May 10, 2013

You Are What You Eat: Taking a Closer Look at What We Eat

We've all heard the saying, "You are what you eat."  Admittedly, if that's the case, I would be made of sugar, meat, and chocolate.  I know that I need to improve my diet, especially now that I am omitting dairy, but I also need to push my kiddos out of the box a bit more.  Sounds fun, right?  I am going to try to make it appear that way!

With all of the talk about GMO's lately, I decided to start reading about what we should be trying to avoid.  I soon realized that while I thought we were eating fairly healthy and avoiding "bad things," I was wrong!  While there is a quite a long list of ingredients and foods to avoid, the three that stood out to me most were corn, soy, and canola.  Hmmm...limiting sugar cereal may be the least of my worries.  I did find that there are currently no genetically engineered wheat products.  Too bad whole wheat is not on my favorite list!    

For the past few years, I have tried to cut back on processed foods.  Generally, the only items we buy out of the frozen food section anymore are vegetables, pie crusts, fruit, ice cream, potatoes, and fish sticks.  I try to avoid chicken nuggets as much as I can, but occasionally they'll make it into the cart.  I'd like to limit that to just fruit, vegetables, and potatoes with the occasional splurge on ice cream since we like to make our own.  I have made homemade chicken nuggets for the kiddos in the past, but they have not liked them (even though they are delicious).  Too bad kids, Mom's making her own again!  I have never tried homemade fish sticks, but I think I will add them to the list of things to try.

As for snacks, I had all but removed the filler foods from our pantry for some time and encouraged the kids to choose fresh fruit, raw veggies, yogurt, or cheese.  Many of the muffin recipes I make are quite healthy, too, so I may throw that in as an option here and there.  When I was preparing my food supply for "after baby," I picked up a few of their favorite treats and can't wait for them to be gone!  We will be going back to those choices and for some treats I plan to try out some recipes I found for the snacks they love like Goldfish and graham crackers.  

This summer we're going to check out some local farmer's markets for produce and attempt to grow some of our own vegetables.  I would love to be able to buy organic all of the time, but the price and availability in our area makes it a little tough.  I may take another stab at it, though, for those foods on the dirty dozen.  We do purchase organic milk and yogurt, but I'd like to add more foods to that list again like chicken and apples.  

My kids may rebel a bit in the beginning now that they've been spoiled for a month, but I'm hoping with some fun presentation and activities I can get them to eat more fresh fruits and veggies this summer.  I am guilty of not eating nearly enough of those foods, so I will have to be on board, too.  We'll begin to make smoothies to pack in as much as we can and I am going to sneak some extras in there, too.  I'm going to be on the lookout for more fun and tasty ways to add more fresh fruit and veggies to our diet as well!

In reality, it shouldn't be this difficult to feed ourselves and our children.  I'm interested to see where all of the "movements" you see on the interent go.  I am going to take baby steps and hopefully over the course of a year make some positive changes in the food we eat.  I plan to document our journey monthly and share some practical tips with you.  If any of our recipes turn out for our homemade treats, I'll share those with you as well!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Summer Bucket List

Today was the last day of preschool for the Princess, which means that summer vacation is right around the corner!  At first it seems like we'll have all of the time in the world during the summer months, but before we know it the summer is over!  Last year we had just moved, so our summer months were full of getting our house organized and hanging out at home.  Now that we're settled, it's time to have some more fun!

A few years ago we created a summer bucket list with the kiddos.  We put realistic wishes on a piece of paper, placed it on the refrigerator, and stuck a smiley face sticker next to an activity once it was completed.  This year I would like to do it again.  I have a feeling this summer's bucket list will be twice as long as the one we created two years ago, as we have more people sharing their wants and opinions!  I can't wait to hear what the kiddos have to say and I'm thinking of my own activities to add to the list.  This is such a fun activity and helps us plan out our summer a bit.  When the ideas are in front of you, it's much easier to find the time to do the activities.

We'll share our list once it's complete!  What will be on your summer bucket list?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A New Recipe for a Nursing-Friendly Diet: Chicken Fried Rice

Now that my eating has entered into the "nursing-friendly" phase, I've been on the hunt for some dairy-free recipes and pinning to Pinterest like crazy.  I also have to omit some other things, like garlic, onion, and peppers, but that is easy enough to do.

Today I thought I'd try out a Chicken Fried Rice recipe I had come across.  It was fairly simple (bonus!) and turned out pretty well.  We aren't able to order Chinese food anymore, because it is not safe for our oldest son with his peanut and tree nut allergy, so it's nice to have something similar to a restaurant.  

Here is the recipe.  I will include all of the ingredients that the recipe called for, but note the items I omitted or changed.

Chicken Fried Rice

2 cups prepared rice
1 chicken breast, cut up (I used two cups of chicken that I had cooked and cut up ahead of time; season with salt and pepper if desired)
1/2 cup frozen mixed vegetables (I used peas and carrots)
2 green onions, chopped (I omitted)
1 clove garlic, minced ( I omitted)
1 egg
3 teaspoons sesame or wok oil, divided (I used olive oil and used two tablespoons because I initially read the recipe wrong!)
2 T. soy sauce (I used low sodium)

Whisk egg and 1 teaspoon (or tablespoon!)  oil in a bowl.  Set aside.  Heat one teaspoon (or tablespoon!) oil in a wok over medium high heat.  Add chicken and stir fry until cooked.  Set aside.  Add another teaspoon of oil to the wok, and add frozen vegetables (and green onions if desired).  Stir fry until tender, about two minutes (though it took me about 5!).  If using garlic, add and cook for another 30 seconds.  Push vegetables to the side in the wok and pour in egg mixture into the center and scramble.  Add cooked chicken, rice, and soy sauce to wok and then toss well to combine.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Almost Three Weeks In: A Real Look Into Life with 4

(While I try to keep my posts as positive as I can, this one  may not quite fit into that category-but it's real-life!).

It's been nearly three weeks since Baby #4 has arrived.  We are still working on settling in and getting to know our Little Queen Bee.  Some days I think we're making progress, as she'll take long naps and stretch out her feedings a bit, but then that comes to a halt and I'm back to being up most of the night and trying to keep her content during the day.  She's following in the steps of her older siblings and showing signs of reflux that make her uncomfortable and this week I've figured out that she is unable to tolerate dairy like our youngest son.  This can make life a bit challenging, as her temperament is not always so pleasant and she seems to eat more than she doesn't in an attempt to keep herself comfortable.

Since she requires so much time and attention, the kids have started to "rebel."  My youngest son has begun to act out and be incredibly uncooperative and aggressive.  I know he's fighting for attention, but it's getting very tiring.  I've implemented the listening chart to try to positively motivate him, but he's really struggling.  I do my best to spend as much time with him as I can, but it's just really hard to do when I'm feeding the baby all of the time!  My oldest son is also having some behavior issues that I'm sure stem from the new baby as well.  The Princess has her moments, but for the most part, she's doing great.  We have our moments where multiple people are crying, screaming, or throwing a temper tantrum, time-outs and being sent to rooms are an everyday occurrence, and my finest parenting skills (insert sarcasm) have reared their ugly heads.  We are far from perfect, but we'll get through it.  

Other than driving the kiddos to school, I can count on one hand how many times I've left the house in three weeks and two of those were for doctor's appointments.  I haven't been anywhere without a child since before Baby #4 arrived nor have I had much alone time at home.  I know that this, too, shall pass and I fully expected this, it just doesn't make things any easier.  There are times throughout the day where I just want to scream, "I need a break!"  The reality, however, is that when you have small children, especially a newborn, there just really aren't a lot of breaks to be found.  

My mom has been my saving grace throughout the past few weeks.  Her and my dad stayed with our kids while we were at the hospital and made all of our older kids feel very special during that time.  She has come to our house to help with the kids, cook, clean, and school pick-up on the days she's here.  She is going to save me again soon when my husband leaves on a business trip for four days!  This is one of the great benefits of moving back near family and her willingness to help out.

You know how the saying goes, "The days are long, but the years are short."  Right now, the days are long, but I hope in the next month, I'll be able to have a little more downtime and maybe get out of the house without the kids.  I am looking forward to being able to exercise again, as it's a great stress-reliever and puts me in a much better mood!  It would be nice to be able to get some sleep, but I am not about to get my hopes set too high about that yet.  Those goals seem pretty lame, but they're really important to this mama!  I'm going a little stir-crazy here if you couldn't tell....

At the end of the day, though, I have four cute, smart, funny, and healthy kids.  Soon they'll be grown and these days will be long behind us.  I'll probably even miss the chaos and unpredictability that each day brings.  Parenting is a wild ride and we're definitely on one of the thrilling, adrenaline-pumping rides right now.  I better buckle up and hold on tight!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What?! May Already?! Time to Prep for Summer (Part 1)!

Since I've had Baby #4, the days of the week run together and for the most part I have no idea what the date is!  So, I was a little surprised to wake up this morning and realize that today is May.  What?!  That means we have entered into our last month of the school year.  My kindergartener will soon be a first grader, preschool year one for the Princess wraps up next week, and soon I will have all four of my kiddos at home...everyday...hmm.  We need a plan!

We don't live close to "town" where most of the activities are and I don't want to spend a lot of time driving each day, so I am going to have to get creative and come up with some activities to do at home or in our little town.  While I am all for free play and unstructured time, letting each day be a free-for-all will be a disaster.  I think if I spend some time in May devising a plan, I may actually be able to pull it off!

My goal is to create projects in the following areas:  arts and crafts, cooking, science, literacy, and motor skills.  Since my kids are all young, but at very different levels, I hope to be able to come up with one activity and adapt it so each kiddo can be successful.  In addition to these activities, I want to plan some fun outings to support what we're learning or just to get out and explore.

Once I get organized, I'll share some of my activities with you all.  One activity we will do every day is reading.  I want to create a weekly reading challenge for each kid and if they meet their minute or books read goal, we will celebrate on Friday evenings with a special activity or treat.  I plan to use a weekly chart to keep track of our progress.  We'll track the books my oldest son reads in addition to his minutes, as it will be fun for him to see how many books he actually read over the summer. 

We will utilize many different ways of reading:  independent book look, Tag readers, books on CD and DVD, and being read to of course.  We plan to participate in our local library's reading program as well.  While we have a ton of books at home, I have saved some from my Scholastic order to pull out this summer and we'll take a weekly trip to the library to check out books, too.  I hope to get some reading in myself this summer!  I think I'll participate in the challenge as well.

How will you encourage your kiddos to read during the summer?  If you're looking for some good books, check out our post from last summer!