focus, part 1

focus, part 1

When Boone was three, he had some awful bedtimes. During that three year old summer, he would be OK during the day, but as soon as the first hint of nighttime was in the air, it was like a switch would flip. His eyes got wide, his body went tense, and it was like he wasn’t in control of himself anymore.

It was rough. But, I theorized, he was THREE. And adjusting to a new baby brother. And one day, he’d grow out of it.

When Boone was four, the awful bedtimes continued. The same wide eyes and tense muscles, the same nightly stress for his mama. “He just needs to be in school full time,” I thought. “He’ll do much better when he gets worn out from learning all day.”

When Boone was five and started kindergarten, we had some bedtime peace. After school each day, I’d ask “what did you do?” And he would mumble something like “I don’t know” and shrug when I’d ask him where he left his lunch box. Or jacket. Or shoes.

But, clearly, this was an adjustment. He was still adapting, right? Adapting to a full time school day, to school rules, to… everything. I was noticing that other kids were telling their parents everything that happened throughout their day. Boone still wasn’t… but that was hardly anything to worry about, I decided. He was excelling at academics; one of his class’s top readers, top spellers, top workers.

When Boone was six and in first grade, his teacher said to me, “he’s clearly very smart, but his focus is not there.”

Umm… what?

WHOA.

WHOA.

My smart angel precious baby child wasn’t focusing well? At first I dove into some heavy denial (maybe she’s just remembering days he was kind of sick, maybe she’s confusing him with someone else?), but then I thought about the bedtimes. Then I thought about the times he couldn’t tell me what he did during a day of school. Then I thought about all of the lost lunch boxes and clothing items. Then I remembered when my husband Jason, the pediatrician, said, “you know, I think Boone has ADHD.”

I’m very open about my own mental health. Depression, anxiety, and meds are not topics I’ll shy away from.

When they’re about me.

But with Boone… I didn’t want him to bear labels and stigmas so young. He wasn’t at an age where he could “own a diagnosis,” or so I thought, and I did not want to push that on him. And besides, didn’t ADHD give kids unbridled energy? And if he had ADHD, could he do all of the things he does, like speed through novellas and ace spelling tests? In first grade he was doing multiplication worksheets, for crying out loud!

Too cool for school (and focus issues…)?

So, like any reasonable person would do, I cried and stressed out and ate chocolate and avoided making decisions for as long as possible.

But then I realized the problems weren’t going away, despite every “focus hack” I found online or in books. While Boone could sit and read an entire book, if he were told to do something he didn’t want to do, it was an epic battle of wills. It didn’t matter if he was capable of, say, practicing piano, or writing a short journal entry, if he didn’t want to do it, it was a struggle. And not just a little, tiny, let’s talk about it struggle. Nope. It was three year old bedtimes all over again.

So I made an appointment with our pediatrician (who is not Boone’s father, by the way, going for unbiased opinions here) and after some surveys with Boone’s teacher, Jason, and myself, it was clear: Boone’s focus needed help. We had an official diagnosis of ADHD and a plan to trial some low dose medication.

My questions still lingered. Where was all of his energy? Oh yeah… at bedtimes. How could he read so fast? Oh yeah… he was choosing the books he wanted to read. What about the multiplication?! Oh yeah… even though he could solve the problems, getting him to sit down to work on it was a chore, to put it mildly.

I had a little more research to do, but I was ready to help my son reach his full potential in any way I could. I filled a prescription for Concerta, said a prayer, and began to watch and wait.

For part two of this post, come back to this blog NEXT WEEK, Wednesday, September 27.

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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.

how to survive your summer in 51 easy steps

1. Make a plan called “How to Have the Best Summer Ever!”

2. Realize on the second day of summer that your plan is garbage.

3. Make a new plan called “Our Carefree Summer!”

4. Don’t tell everyone that your new summer plan is actually called “Dear God help us I miss the structure.”

5. Send your three year old back to his room every morning at 6:00 am.

6. Purchase a fancy color-changing clock for your three year old that will glow green when he is allowed to leave his room in the morning.

7. Say “Stay in your room until your clock is green” every five minutes starting every morning at 6:00 am.

8. Coffee.

9. If June: buy expensive mineral sunscreen and have your children stand like statues while you slather it on like spackle.

10: If July (or mid to late June, whenever you crack): buy cheap spray sunscreen and mist in your child’s general direction. Ask them lovingly to “close eyes and pinch noses.”

11. Just come to terms with the fact that sand will be everywhere.

12. Cry a little bit when you see the first back-to-school display.

13. Cry a little harder when your six year old learns super soakers are a thing.

14. Wine.

15. Teach your kids that the “S Word” is “Snack,” and we do not swear.

16. Glance into your child’s room to see clothes and sand and toys and books and bedding everywhere. Then say a different kind of “S Word” and just shut that door. Shut the door.

17. Try not to look too excited when your kid says he’s tired. “Do you want to TAKE A NAP DO YOU WANT TO TAKE A NAP?” Nope, he’s good now.

18. Visit every park that’s ever existed. Pack every vegetable and cracker and fruit you’ve ever owned. Listen to children complain about being bored and hungry.

19. Attempt to put your child to bed when the sun is still very high in the sky.

20. Try to explain daylight savings time and end up crying and exclaiming that it really, truly is bedtime, no matter what it looks like outside.

21. More wine.

22. Curse the “young adults” next door who are being loudly unsupportive of your belief that it is, in fact, bedtime.

23. Send your kid back to his room.

24. Send your kid back to his room.

25. Send your kid back to his room.

26. Go to sleep.

27. Wake up; send your kid back to his room.

28. Make a mental note to research how tiny humans function with so little sleep. You never will, though. You’re too tired!

29. Buy school supplies far too early. Think about teachers. Mentally send them a fruity cocktail. They earned it, man.

30. Start planning activities that are an hour or two away, just for the air-conditioned kid-buckled driving time.

31. Watch your kid swim the entire length of the pool underwater, when last year he wouldn’t even go down the slide.

32. Realize that summers really go pretty fast, even if sometimes they seem kinda long.

33. Remember it’s your three year old’s last summer before he starts school — preschool, sure — but school nonetheless.

34. Watch your six year old ride a bike without training wheels, after summers of complete bike apathy.

35. Sit in the grass with your kids and catch fireflies long after they should be in bed.

36. Think “this summer thing isn’t so bad.”

37. Get up too early, stay up too late, overplan the warm July days you have left.

38. Vow to do the same when it’s August.

39. You’ll sleep when you’re dead, anyway.

40. (Or when school starts.)

41. (Or when daylight savings time FINALLY ENDS.)

42. Stop rolling your eyes when people say, “oh, they’re only young once.” Even though they’re actually young for like 12-18 years or however you want to gauge it.

43. I mean, they are only young once.

44. At least, they’re only six and three during summer once.

45. So decide to just “soak it all up.”

46. Except for the sand.

47. I mean, you’ll soak that up anyway without even trying.

48. Maybe invest in some industrial strength blackout curtains.

49. Buy lots of coffee and wine.

50. Embrace your summer fully.

(51. And pray for all of the teachers. Their time is coming. You know it, I know it, they know it; pray, just pray, just pray.)

Happy summer to all, and to all a good bedtime. (Or wine.)

wacky wednesdays

Welcome back to another rousing rendition of “what we’re doing this summer!” Summer is so very quickly approaching (8 school days left around here!) so if you, like me, need plans to keep you sane, read on.

(And if you want to catch up on what we’ll be doing on Mondays and Tuesdays during the summer, you can check out those posts here: masterchef mondays and tech-free tuesdays.)

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He’s ready to craft! Now excuse me, while I cry about how small my giant almost-done-with-kindergarten kid used to look.

Wednesdays are for arts and crafts. Now, I may be a caffeine-fueled mom with a solid pinterest addiction, like so many of us, but I am unfortunately NOT a crafter. That’s not to say I haven’t tried; oh, I’ve tried. I’ve made cards. I’ve sewn bedding. I’ve knit scarves. I’ve purchased paints and small canvasses with the intention of making something super ~shabby chic~. I have failed. I just don’t get any satisfaction from cutting and gluing or stitching and pearling or anything else that requires I sit and do instead of stand and move (or sit and not do).

I do like writing to-do lists while sitting. Does that count?

Here’s my arts and crafts plan for Summer 2016:

On the first Wednesday of summer break, I’ll be gifting my kiddos a $30 gift card to Hobby Lobby. We’ll go there with the specific intention of purchasing craft supplies, DIY kits, anything that catches our eye and fits our budget. This is our craft budget for the summer — period. If we want other items, we’ll get creative with our trash and recycling. It’s important to note I’m not looking to make museum-worthy pieces of art here — or even gift items — we’re looking to have some fun with some mostly temporary creative pieces.

True confessions time: my planning for our art projects will usually take place on Tuesdays after the kids are in bed. I’ll scroll pinterest and choose a project we already have materials for. But I’ll happily share with you a few of the favorites I’ve saved from preliminary pinterest searches…

LadyBugs vs Tadpoles Tic-Tac-Toe — ok, this is just cute. And it’s a game we can play later! We probably won’t use an actual piece of freshly cut-tree for the playing board (though my neighbors do have tree-cutting plans, so we’ll see), but we can totally paint rocks.

Kid Made Bird Feeders — I love a craft that serves a purpose, and I’ll happily hang kid-crafted bird feeders all over our yard. Prepare to feast, birds!

Beaded Snakes — this craft incorporates hand-eye coordination (which, to be honest, both the two year old and the five year old could stand to practice more) and the end result is a fun new toy.

Our school activities will focus on social studies for the big kid (I love the worksheets found here) and shapes and colors for the little kid (preschool pages found here).

And that wraps up Wednesdays! My husband did suggest “wine down Wednesdays” to give mom a break during the week, but I’m pretty sure the only thing that would accomplish is “ok everybody, it’s time to take a nap.” Which… now that I think about it…

Grab some wine (or not) and let’s craft, everybody. Happy Summer Wednesdays to you!

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!

masterchef mondays 

Hello, friends! Before I embark on sharing our summer plans, I want to offer a few qualifiers:

NO, we will not be strictly following these plans every day of summer. Summer is about flexibility and freedom, and we’ll be sure not to forget that.

YES, sometimes we will get super lazy (that is, full of summer freedom!) and throw all of our plans out the window in lieu of whatever strikes our fancy that day.

NO, we aren’t looking to spend a lot of money with these summer plans. Some, yes; but I’m trying to keep these plans as accessible as possible.

YES, even in summer, even if we scrap the themed activities of the day, we will still complete our daily chores (to the best of our ability). The daily chores are — get dressed/get in pajamas, put dirty clothes in hamper, make bed, water/tend to garden plot, read, and practice piano.

Outdoor activities are always encouraged, and screen time will be limited to 2 1/2 hours per day, split into half hour increments. John will be given five 30-minute “screen time” cards he can use at his discretion, but when they are gone, they are gone.

I know how I operate and how my kids operate, and a plan like this will work well for us. It might not work as well for you, and that’s fine! However summer hits you, I hope it’s a good one.

Without further ado… MASTERCHEF MONDAYS!

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Making lemonade in our pjs, because it’s kind of how we roll.

John and I recently watched Masterchef Jr. on Hulu, and he loved it so much (and so did I!). Our main goal for Mondays will be choosing and making some sort of food, and John will do this (somewhat) by himself. We’ll probably do our grocery shopping for the week on Mondays also, so this will coincide well.

We own several items from the Curious Chef line of products. We don’t own this exact set in the Amazon link, but we have a few strong (but safe!) knives and other cooking utensils that are perfect for John’s little (clumsy) hands. The Internet is, of course, swimming with kid-friendly recipes, as any Google or Pinterest search will prove, but if you want to put a book in your child’s hands, here are a few I love:

Cooking Class by Deanna F. Cook — I like this book because it starts out with the basics. What are your basic kitchen tools? What do they do? It also has a fun overview of kitchen vocabulary with photos.
National Geographic Kids Cookbook — This book is great because it is divided into months, with different recipes and activities for the entire year. Although it’s subtle, it touches on eating locally grown foods in season, which is a passion of mine.
Wild Eats and Adorable Treats by Jill Mills — This one is just fun! All of the recipes require way more time than I would normally spend “designing” food, but if John wants to make a turkey and cheese sandwich that looks like a cow, more power to him.
In addition to actually prepping and making foods, our “masterchef” activities will be: watching Masterchef Jr. (told ya this would be here), making sand pies at the beach we are lucky enough to live five minutes away from, washing dishes (because it’s truly an important part of the food-making process/I don’t want to be stuck with it all at night), and — everyone’s favorite — MATH WORKSHEETS!

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Now there’s the face of a kid who is excited to math.

 

I also want us to do at least a few worksheets everyday, so we don’t forget things, like writing our names on papers and stuff. Math seems to work nicely with the cooking theme, so here are a couple links with free, printable math worksheets for preschool-elementary aged kiddos.

K5Learning.com — Math
HomeschoolMath.net

That’s all for Masterchef (Mathterchef I’m so sorry) Mondays! Tune back next week when I hit you with a bunch of ideas for Tech-Free Tuesdays… and yes, this one scares me a little (a lot). Happy planning!