Thursday, June 20, 2019

Five on Friday: The Summer Time Screen Time Battle Begins

School's out for summer!

This should be such an exciting time, filled with so much promise of fun and magical adventures . . . but many of the social media posts I'm seeing lately are from friends dreading the screen time battle with their kids. One asked other parents recently, "So what's our game plan?"

My short answer was "I'm just mean."

Which is true actually, but I do have some other tricks up my sleeve. Here are my top five tips for keeping kids from too much screen time this summer:

1. Grow up with a parent that doesn't allow much television watching and was constantly telling you to go outside, like I did.

*Okay, fine, maybe it's too late for you to do that but I'm including it anyway so YOU can be that parent for your kids. Because I was that kid and even though I still don't know so many television and movie references from the 80s, I also just have it ingrained in me that kids belong outside as much as possible and not behind a screen.

2. Use the kids' screen time to your own benefit. Need small kids entertained or slightly older kids not fighting so you can nap or shower or exercise? When they ask for screen time, I make them wait and I tell them they are going to get it when I am ready to do that task.

*Added bonus: all summer long my kids inadvertently motivate me to exercise by asking, "Are you going to exercise now, Mom? Now? Mom? Exercise???"

3. Work together on a list of non-screen-time activities to do--not outings you have to pay for, but simple fun things like painting rocks, setting up scavenger hunts for each other, water balloon fights, making a lemonade stand, etc. How many times do we get to the end of the summer and realize we didn't do some of these classic summertime things? We like to write the ideas on little scraps of paper and then put them in a container so we can pull one out and be surprised.

4. When they ask for screen time, direct them to that list they made.  If they say they don't want to, I'M SURE THERE IS A TOILET AROUND HERE THAT NEEDS SCRUBBING.

5. Just say no.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Five on Friday: An Homage to My Husband's Parenting Style

. . . as told in video clips.

Without him, our family motto wouldn't be "Safety Second" and the kids would probably be having a lot less fun. Also I might have one or two fewer grey hairs.

1.  All season fun . . .

2.  This seemed to go much smoother for him than that time I was 8 months pregnant and tried to go down a twisty playground slide with a 16-month-old on my lap:

3. Through the years:

4.  (To be clear, that's one of our kids telling him it's a terrible idea and another one chanting "chug." If you can't tell, it's the liquid that was left in a jar of hot peppers. Ah, life lessons from Dad)

5.  This will always be a classic:

"He's gotta learn how to stop."

Happy Fathers Day to the Best of the Best!

*Lest you think all he does as a Dad is actively demonstrate to the children how to give me near-constant heart palpitations, I felt like I should add this sweet moment, too:

Friday, June 7, 2019

Five on Friday: Best Quotes from the School Tour Season

Teaching is a career I had considered but didn't pursue. Being a tour guide provides me with the opportunity to work with kids and get them excited about learning, which is something I really enjoy.

I never have to lesson plan or grade papers. I also get a brand new crop of kids every day (twice a day, usually, with how the schedule works) and I never know what to expect out of them. 

Now that the season is wrapping up, it's the perfect time to look back on the most memorable moments with kids this year:

1. I'm not sure why, but I've had more than one kid comment on my hair--I don't think it's that unusual? I'm not sure what's so fascinating about it to them. This year, a young boy asked me repeatedly if my hair was a wig. He was 100% serious and I eventually bent down to let him tug at it which was a bit of mistake since he pulled kind of hard, but at least he stopped asking me after that.

2. While walking from one building to the next . . .

Second grader: “Have you seen Back to the Future?”

Me: “Heck yeah!”

Him: “They could film Back to the Future Four here with the Mill and the Blacksmith shop and everything. Just saying.”

Me: “You might be on to something. I’ll write to Hollywood.”

Him: “It’d only cost 30 grand.”

3. In the schoolhouse, one of the 5th graders wrote "YEET" on his slate board. I asked him if he could tell me what it means, since my own kids can't seem to define it.

"Well, it means . . . it means yeet."

Yeah, that's what my kids said too. Thanks for the clarification, kid.

Only picture of the school house I have, my daughter and me in a photo taken for a special event

4. First graders are the worst when it comes to wildly raising their hands to ask a question that turns out to be a comment along the lines of "My cousin? She went on vacation? And this year I'm going with her."

It makes it very hard to keep the tour on track. So when I was explaining that the double turbine water wheel actually generated electricity for the town in the early 1900s and got a wild hand-raiser, I almost didn't call on him. 

But I did and he asked, "Isn't electricity and water not supposed to go together??"

I was not expecting that at all. Had to take a few seconds and then admit, "Well. Yes."

5.  The best kid quote of the season, by far: 

"That was an excellent learning trip and I can't believe my teacher spent so much time on the phone missing it."

Ah, out of the mouths of babes. Maybe that teacher needs to brush up on my tips for chaperones before coming back next year . . .


Friday, May 31, 2019

Five on Friday: A Taste of Summer

Growing up, summer was always my favorite. That wasn't very unique, I imagine every child's favorite season is summer. As I've gotten older, I have come to appreciate aspects of each season (Colorful leaves in the fall! Flowers blooming in spring! Snow falling . . . no, scratch that, I still hate winter.)

Of course summer isn't a season-long break for adults. Even though I only work (for pay) part time, I still have plenty of work to do here on my days off. Even though family vacations mean fun and adventure, there's so much work for the adults to take care of (Planning! Packing! Driving! Cooking and cleaning anyway!)

When I start to think about all the work of our big road trip in a few weeks, and making sure everything at home and work are taken care of in our absence, and remembering I still have to arrange some childcare for days I'm working, I can start to feel a little anxious about summer instead of excited.

I hate it.

So I tell myself to calm down, prioritize what needs to be done, make a list, tackle it, yadda yadda yadda. And maybe most importantly, remember that it's almost SUMMER and I LOVE summer! All I have to do is look at pictures from last weekend . . . we didn't even spend all of Memorial Day weekend at the lake, just over 24 hours. But we packed in so much of what I love about summer, I can look at these pictures and remember what's in store:

1. Family time around the campfire and lots and lots of marshmallows.

My husband declared this marshmallow he roasted to be "absolutely perfect, the Beyoncé of marshmallows" and insisted on letting me have it. #truelove

2.  Currently our weekday mornings consist of me scrambling to get the kids out to the bus on time. There are frequent tears. I'm looking forward to more mornings like this, lazing about and enjoying each other and nature:

3. We won't just be having lazy mornings but lots of lazy days. I'm a firm believer in letting the kids be bored until they figure out how to entertain themselves and if it means something like this, so be it:

4. All the outdoor activities that we enjoy as a family! Hiking, biking, kayaking!

Sometimes even the dog gets involved!

5.  The magic of this last picture captures the most important part of this summer: no, not sparklers, family time together! That is always a priority but this summer will take on a new relevance. Our daughter is going to be going to college about five hours away this August, and we are going to miss her terribly. She's going to miss us, too, but she has a special adoration for one of her siblings in particular. That's him in this picture, making it an especially magical snapshot of this relationship and the best reminder of what I'm looking forward to this summer.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Five on Friday: School Trip Season! Chaperoning Pro Tips from a Tour Guide

This is my 4th year working as a tour guide and workshop leader (that means I get to do things like dress in costume and make candles) for school field trips at a local historic site.

When the tours are over, the kids pile back on the bus and then wave to us wildly through the windows. The tour guides stand together smiling and waving back . . . and unloading to each other about the problems experienced during that day's tour. Very frequently, chaperoning parents were part of the problem and rarely part of the solution.

If you've volunteered to chaperone a school trip this spring, here are some tips to keep your tour guide from complaining about you as the bus drives away:

1. Please don't talk while the tour guide is talking. This means on the phone or to other parents. If you have an urgent situation, step away to carry on your conversation.  I wish I didn't have to say this.

2. If you're the only other adult in the group--sometimes it happens that teachers have to divide their time between groups leaving only the tour guide and chaperone--please help if it is an unruly bunch. Most tour guides know how to handle kids but it's always helpful when another adult--particularly one who might know some of the kids' names*--can pitch in.
(*Otherwise we're all, "My little friend in the blue shirt, can I have your attention please?")

3.  Don't hand out hand warmers  to every single kid while the tour guide is speaking. (And it's not like we were touring the tundra. They could have just put their hands in their pockets.)

4. This one is for some Dads: stop giving all the Dad Chaperones a bad name by being loud, disruptive and rambunctious. You're there to have fun with your kid and help when needed. You don't have to become BFFs with every single first grader on the trip.

5. Lastly is the complaint heard almost every single tour: When the tour guide asks a question to the group during the tour: DO NOT ANSWER. THESE QUESTIONS ARE FOR THE CHILDREN. We are all super proud of you for knowing that builders in the early 1800s couldn't go to Home Depot to get lumber, but we really wanted to hear what the kids thought about that.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Five on Friday: I Wear Many Hats

As you may know, I am a woman who wears many hats: I've got a few jobs, a few hobbies, a few kids, a few more kids that always hang out here, a few  (whoops, got on a roll there!) one wonderful husband, a dog, a house, an extended family, a bunch of friends . . . 

But I'm also a woman who literally wears many hats, many of which I have embellished with lots of hot glue and found objects. Recently I've been wondering what to do about my growing collection of hats and decided that, naturally, I should write a blog post about them!

1. Though I do love all manner of hats, I'm not much of a baseball cap wearer. When I do occasionally wear one for exercising or gardening, you can bet it's one I embroidered a home made patch on to:

2. I made this hat to be Carmen Miranda for Halloween last year. It's been sitting in my bedroom begging me to wear it again but an opportunity just has not presented itself yet.
(Oooh but I am going to be in New Hope, PA for Pride weekend . . . DONE)

3. The hat I made (with the building skills of my brilliant and artistic daughter) for the first Red Mill Kentucky Derby party I went to:

4. For the second Red Mill Kentucky Derby party I went to, I went easy on the hat and made a Red Mill-print dress (again with substantial help from my daughter) But for the third year I went back to a hat and decided to reflect the water theme that the Mill has this year in exhibits and programming:

5. Lastly, just a few weeks ago I was thinking about how much I'd like one of these. Then lo and behold, I found a brand-new one at the thrift shop! Because I am secretly and 80-year-old lady, this fills me with joy and I will absolutely use it:

Friday, May 10, 2019

Five on Friday: It's 80s Party Season!

Aside from actually going to parties in the 80s, I haven't really been to many 80s themed events . . . until this year. In the past two months, I've gone to FOUR of them! Being that I am usually feeling pretty overwhelmed by two jobs and five kids, I totally found time to come up with four distinct costumes and helped my husband with some of his.

Here they are in all of their unique 80s glory plus a bonus picture of me at an actual party in 1988:

1. First up: The Awesome 80s Prom! An interactive High School musical directed by a friend of me with whom I used to perform in High School musicals. I went with a Madonna theme for this one.

2. Next up was my own daughter's High School's Annual Coffeehouse event, this year with an 80s theme. I was Ms. PacMan and my youngest said she'd be a ghost. I made her a costume and then she refused to wear it. My friend's daughter wore it for a little while to appease me.

3. Then there was a birthday party that had an 80s WWF Wrestler theme. I only really know Hulk Hogan and the "Snap Into a Slim Jim" guy, neither of which appealed to me. So my husband helped me find the Fabulous Moolah. I fell in love but then he told me that she didn't really count for the 80s but Wikipedia said she did and besides I had already made up my mind because just look at her! And also me:

4. Last and maybe best . . . another birthday party, another 80s theme. Sure I could have used one of my other costumes but instead I of course felt the need to turn myself into a unicorn Trapper Keeper. As one does when they're super pressed for time.

Somehow never got a chance to get into the Photo Booth with my husband. He made an adorable Mork but we have no photo evidence. Whoops.

5. And now, the moment you've all been waiting for . . . . Homecoming, October 1988. You're welcome.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Five on Friday: Perks of Having a Sister Who Doesn't Live With You

I firmly believe that families belong together and that siblings should be raised together.

I also happen to have a family made up with children who don't live with their biological parents nor all of their biological siblings. However, we fall into the extremely fortunate category of families like this who can and do have those relatives in our lives, even if not under the same roof.

The one my kids are closest to is their older sister who was adopted into a different family.  They've known her their entire lives and she's spent time with us in the summer. They stay in touch with her frequently, most adorably through FaceTime:

Last Wednesday I got a text from her Mom saying something like, "I heard K is coming to stay with you this weekend, is that okay with you?"

I laughed out loud. I hadn't heard about this at all. I could talk to the kids about remembering to ask before making plans but I couldn't be mad: they invited their sister over!

As much as I wish that all siblings could be raised together, I have to say I've noticed there are some perks to having a sister who doesn't live with you but occasionally comes to visit:

1. You don't have to hide your adoration for her. My  younger three kids have older siblings here that they live with and absolutely look up but they'd NEVER be obvious about it. Not so with a visiting sister!

2. A big sister that's only here sometimes is happy to play and hang out with you for hours on end. Likewise, she's not here long enough for you to get on her nerves.

3. Somehow all three younger kids--two of whom bicker constantly--get along better when K is in the mix.

4. Live-action observation of Nature vs. Nurture. The kids think it's kind of cool to see what they have in common with a person they share biology but not parents with; I find it fascinating.

5. The part that my kids think is best: she may be a sister but she's also a guest, so there's lots of staying up late and eating junk food while she's here.