what i learned on my summer vacation

what i learned on my summer vacation

It’s officially back to school time for us. My big kid started today, and my little kid starts tomorrow. Second grade and preschool, respectfully. I kind of thought by the time I sat down to write this post it would be full of HALLELUJAHs and WOOHOOs, but you know what? It’s bittersweet.

Weird, I know.

I love school. I particularly love back to school. There are some kids who thrive in being away, being social and interactive outside the home, and my kids are those kids. I can plan fun summer activities every single day until I collapse (which is usually the case) but it’s always more fun when someone else does the planning. So you could say we’ve been ready for the first day of school since… the last day of school.

I started summer thinking that it would be awful. That despite our fun planned activities, our house would be a tornadic disaster (check), kids would complain about our fun planned activities (check), bedtimes would be a joke (check check) and I would generally hate summer (…not check).

I love my kids. I feel like that’s a necessary thing I should say. But I’m a full time stay-at-home-mom married to a doctor with a crazy schedule. …and I’m an introvert. To sum up: mama needs a break.

But I am premeditated, so I went into summer with lists and plans and dreams and goals. And yes, my house was a mess, and my kids complained, and bedtimes were insane, but we sucked the marrow out of summer. We swam, biked, ran, camped, played, snuggled, read, drew, fished, boated, watched movies, ate snacks, roasted marshmallows and hot dogs over a bonfire, had picnics, and, honestly, we had fun every day.

Don’t get me wrong: some days I wanted to rip my hair out. Some days I wanted to find that swear word book about going the BLEEP to sleep and read it with a ferocious intensity. Some days we watched more screen time than is recommended. Some days we stayed in pajamas all day.

If this doesn’t sum up summer in one photo though…

I think my problem with summer is that well, for one, I don’t like being hot. But for two, it’s an up close and personal reminder of how big my kids are getting. The first time we go to the pool, I’m reminded at how much better they can swim this year. The first time we mini golf, I’m blown away at how quickly they can sink the ball. I know these changes take place over the school year also — and to some extent, exclusively — but when we’re doing the same summer activities year after year, it’s like a real life time hop. I see them this year and I can see every year that came before. And it’s a lot for my heart to handle.

So I have decided, my new plan for summer vacation is to overdose on it. To continue to do ALL OF THE THINGS so that during the cold school year the memories of our fun can keep me warm.

But for now, I will leave the planning up to the teachers, I will trust others to protect and care for the hearts of mine that live outside of my body. I’m sitting in a quiet, clean house, drinking coffee and enjoying the quiet.

But also… I kind of miss the noise.

i can’t live with or without you, kid shows

Love it or hate it, “screen time” has been a saving grace of moms since the TV got more than three channels. While I can’t say that I’m totally on board with leaving my child in front of a television indefinitely, some days are a little more… screen-y than others. We are just trying to make it, OK? Let us live.

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WHAT TIME IS IT? Screen time. Obviously.

Wherever you are on the screen time spectrum (ranging from “we only play quietly with sticks outside” – ps teach me your ways – to “ALL SHOWS ALL THE TIME”), I know you have strong opinions about television shows. Kid’s television shows, specifically. Maybe you like to relive your youth and present your children with old-school Sesame Street (Gordon forever) or The Magic School Bus. Maybe you turn on PBS and let it run all day (no judgements; and also, #savePBS). Maybe you allow your little ones five minutes of a nature documentary a day after they’ve exhausted themselves with all of the stick-playing (seriously, teach me your ways). But whatever path you choose, I know we can all agree on one thing:

Caillou is the worst.

This is not an unpopular opinion. Everybody hates Caillou. He’s probably the only thing that’s ever come out of Canada that makes everyone cringe. (Don’t worry, neighbors to the north, Poutine more than makes up for him.)

I’m not going to detail why Caillou’s the worst, OK? We all know. His voice is terrible. He’s on a perpetual path of destruction and constantly surprised that he ends up in trouble. In one episode, he decided to try olives and he liked the olives. Come on, C. Olives are gross.

(Sorry if you like olives, but that was the last straw for me.)

No, I’m here today to talk about the other kid’s shows that are ridiculously crazy weird. In no particular order, I present to you:

THE PREMEDITATED LIST OF CHILDREN’S SHOWS THAT ARE AWFUL (and one or two that don’t suck)

The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That

Truth: Martin Short (a Canadian; further proof that Canada mainly exports kids shows and gravy on French fries) is a genius. He can sing! He can do silly voices! He’s a delight.

Also the truth: This show has unsupervised kids regularly being asked by at best – an imaginary human-like feline or at worst – stranger in a cat costume – to go on adventures. The moms of this show are always cool with this, as long as the kids are home by mealtime. “Sure, kids! Go ahead and fly on a rocket ship to the moon with a creature I’ve never seen!” “Someone wants to zap you down to the size of ants so you can scurry around underground? Neat! Just be home in time for dinner!”

Really, moms? Really? You don’t have… any follow up Q’s, here?

And don’t even get me started on Thing 1 and Thing 2’s shenanigans. I’m pretty sure they’re personally responsible for my toddler’s destructive streak.

The Garfield Show

Truth: Garfield loves lasagna and hates Mondays, and that kind of shtick just doesn’t get old.

Also the truth: This show, found on Netflix, is not the Garfield of our youth, 90s kids. This is some 3-D CG weirdness that kind of feels like if a dollar store tries to sell a ripoff action figure and name it “BatGuy.” I can’t comment on the actual content very well as I am constantly distracted by the fact that Garfield sounds more like a lazy Jim Belushi than the monotone feline we loved in Garfield and Friends. (In fairness, I think the original Garfield voice-actor died, but I for one think casting could have found a closer match.)

Bubble Guppies

Truth: Kind of cute? I do appreciate how the show makes mermaids accessible to all genders.

Also the truth: I kid you not, these are the lyrics to the theme song – BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES…

I’m sorry but that is just inexcusable.

(And now for the ones that don’t suck!)

Octonauts

Truth: This British children’s show is actually cute AND educational.

Also the truth: Yes, there’s some annoying songs in there. And the moral dilemma of the half-animal, half-vegetable creatures deemed the “vegimals” who are kind of the Octonauts’ servants. But! This show actually teaches real things (like that Cone Snails are wicked scary) and it’s fun for mom and kids alike.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Truth: We still sing the “stop and go right away” potty song at my house. Regularly.

Also the truth: Sure, there are questions. How does trolley know where you’re going? What’s teacher Harriet’s deal? Does she have a family or does she live at the preschool? What does “ugga mugga” mean? Who cares. This show teaches awesome lessons and delivers them with catchy songs you can sing to your toddler when they’re being a jerk-I mean, need some gentle reminders on how to be a nice friend.

I hope this helps the next time you need a 22-minute break from your precious unicorn offspring. Feel free to pass along this handy guide to a pregnant friend who doesn’t yet know the dark underworld that is children’s telvision.

Unless you think she’s the kind of mom who will just send her kids outside with sticks.

(Can I meet her?)

to the stranger-mom i judged

To the stranger-mom I judged:

Hi. I don’t know you. You don’t know me. But I judged you, hard. I’m sorry. 

We were both in Disney World, aka the happiest place on earth (and believe me, it is). We were both riding the Friendship Cruise from Hollywood Studios to EPCOT (a great way to beat crowds and sneak into the back entrance of EPCOT, right in the middle of the Food and Wine festival. Beside the point, but kudos to our planning.)

I sat on a bench next to my two year old, Jonah, in a stroller. You sat across from me on a bench with your husband and two young children, a girl and a boy. Your husband said “get your a** over here” to your son, and I was shocked. Not long after, you fixed your daughter’s hair and said “do not f*** that up” to your husband, who was starting to tickle her. I was, again, shocked.

Jonah’s the little one. Isn’t he so cute?!

All of a sudden, I knew what kind of mother you were. I knew that you were self-centered and ignorant about parenting. I thought you cared for your kids so little, you didn’t care about verbally abusing them with – gasp! – swear words. I looked at my Jonah, happily sitting in his stroller, watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates on my phone. He was quiet. He would occasionally look up at me and smile. I’m the superior mom here, I thought.

OK, I want you to know this is hard for me to admit. You see, I like to talk a big game about how our parenting choices can differ without being detrimental to our children. But I heard you swearing, and even though your kids seemed entirely unaffected — no gasps or surprised faces at the words in question — I judged you. Hard.

We parted ways after the boat ride. I pushed Jonah around in the stroller while partaking in the Food and Wine Festival in the World Showcase. Eventually, Jonah fell asleep, so I thought “score!” and had my fill of fun foods and wines and people-watching. We went on a few rides after he woke up, and we laughed and bonded and had a grand old time. Then we went to Soarin’ (one of my favorite rides, by the way) to wait for my husband and other son, Boone, to finish riding. Since we’d had a full afternoon and we were currently just sitting and waiting, I pulled out my phone again. Jonah sat, happily entranced by Jake, Mr. Smee, and Captain Hook, and I looked across the area where we were sitting. 

You were there.

We never locked eyes. We didn’t on the boat, either. You may not have recognized me. But I’m a people-watcher, and I generally remember who I judge, so I knew who you were.

I panicked. I thought you’d see me, sitting with my toddler, letting him watch television on my phone again. I wanted to go over and tell you about all of the fun stuff we had done that afternoon. I wanted to say I was proud of my toddler for taking a good nap, and how he had earned that phone time. And also, he was so low on sleep this vacation, this was just the best way to help him wait.  

I thought about taking the phone and running around with him, starting a game of tag. But I was tired, obviously, it was Disney World — Every Person Comes Out Tired. (That’s a bad EPCOT joke, by the way, I like to make jokes when I’m nervous, sorry.)

Also a nervous thing — look at another cute picture of my baby!

So instead I looked at you. I watched you hug your daughter. I watched you stroke her hair. I watched your comfort your son while he whimpered a bit and asked when daddy would get off the ride. I noticed your children’s clean clothes, your daughter’s intricate hairdo (which nobody f***-ed up, thankfully), and the way those kids looked at you. They love you. They’re happy. They’re taken care of.

I’m a jerk.

The only reason I second-guessed Jonah’s vacation screen time and worried you were judging me is because I judged you. I don’t know anything about you. I based my whole opinion of you on two swear words, and really? I don’t have a problem with swear words when I’m not around my kids. You think differently about this and I immediately thought you were wrong and I knew better. I’m not proud of it. 

Because it bears repeating: I thought you were judging me. I only thought that because I was judging you.

So, stranger-mom I judged, I want to thank you. Thank you for pointing out my own inadequacy without saying a word. Thank you for helping me see that different isn’t wrong, and thank you for not rolling your eyes when you saw my kiddo watching Netflix again. I can only hope from here on out, I’ll remember you the next time I’m sure I know everything about a mom.

I hope other moms grant me this grace as well.

All my love and Disney Magic,

Jennie

tech-free tuesdays

OK… here we are… the day of the week that I will admit is freaking me out! A disclaimer — I love technology. I’m a millenial, albeit an older one, but I grew up being wow-ed by what the wide world of technology can accomplish, and I believe I’m better for it. My kiddos do/will absolutely use and embrace screens in their lives. But not on Tuesdays… for this summer. (Also, yes, I appreciate the fact that you’re reading this on a screen right now.)

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Screens? Where we’re going we don’t need screens…

If you’re just jumping in, I’m sharing my weekday summer plans with you. Last week I told you all about our plans for masterchef mondays , and today I’ll share our ideas for a day of screen-free fun.

Our Tuesdays will likely begin slowly, with my kids maybe sleeping in (oh, just allow a girl to dream). We’ll work through our morning chores (making beds, getting dressed, practicing piano, visiting our garden) and sit down to do some worksheets. I’ve decided the theme for tech-free Tuesdays will be writing — as in, pencil to paper, good “old fashioned” writing.

I like these websites for printable writing worksheets:

Beginning Writing — this page has some great pre-writing worksheets, like mazes and connect-the-dots, which are great for those kiddos just starting out. It also has some blank writing templates to help older kids with handwriting and spacing.

Cursive Writing — I know this is an occasional hot button issue. Should the students learn cursive in school? I’m a little torn on my answer; it really depends on how cursive will be used in the future, and I can’t predict that. However, will we practice it at home? Sure, if time allows.

Creative Writing — there are many websites like this, so here is one example of a list of writing prompts for journaling. I think creative writing is incredibly important, and I want my little summer students (OK, mostly — I mean entirely — John) to stretch themselves in this way.

Truthfully, after we finish with all of this, we’ll probably pack a lunch and go to the gym, because 1) free childcare and 2) outdoor pool with toys and sprinklers and a slide to entertain us during the afternoon. However, sometimes the weather will not be agreeable, and not everyone has this option, so here are some other ideas!

We will be making an “I’m Bored” jar, similar to the one found here: Shabby Beach Nest Bored Jar. You can make this in a huge variety of ways, from printing and mod-podging and sanding (as in the tutorial at the Shabby Beach Nest) or writing some ideas on small pieces of paper and keeping them in an envelope in a desk. The main idea is to have some ideas on hand in case the dreaded “I’m bored” comes out to play.

(And may I remind you that it is certainly okay to be bored every once in a while!)

Here are our “Bored Jar” ideas so far (ours are specifically “rainy day” activities — but yours can be for anytime!):

Visit the library
Take some books to a coffee shop and read/sip hot chocolate
Put together a lego creation
Board Game Tournament of Champions (basically just playing one board game after another and keeping track of who wins the most games)
Visit a museum
Paint a story
Make a play-doh village
30 minutes of quiet reading time
Make a dessert for after dinner
Talent Show
Scavenger Hunt (Scavenger Hunt Ideas)
John reads three books to Ev
Mama reads two books to John and Ev
John reads one book to Mama
Geocaching (We haven’t done this yet, but hope to get into it this summer. My friend explained how it works to me, and I’ll explain it to you via this Wikipedia Page.)
Call up a friend
Visit a relative/friend
Go to the mall
Make a “favorite things” collage
Try a brand new food
Build a fort
Visit Meg’s Playhouse (a local place where kiddos can play inside)
Visit Crazy Bounce (a local place where kiddos can… bounce)

I’m sure we’ll add more to the list as we think of things — and if you have any ideas, please leave them in the comments! Team work makes the dream work, my friends.

Next week we’ll venture into “Wacky Wednesdays” — our arts and crafts day. Thanks for reading!