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Monday, August 21, 2017

Why I am excited for the kids to go back to school

I'll admit, I used to be that parent, the one who complained about people who were excited for their kids to go back to school. Who said things like "Do people really not enjoy their kids so much that they need to celebrate being away from them?" in disgust. I probably even was bold enough to post it on facebook. Because I was SO confident that I would never desire time away from my kids and that my kids would be perfectly happy spending 24 hours a day 7 days a week in my presence for the rest of eternity.

But here we are, the first day of school and I am EXCITED to send them back.

But no, I haven't decided that I don't like to be around my kids.

My oldest is in 4th grade this year (how did that even happen?!), and this kid lives for school. We do a lot at home, and I know I *could* meet his needs here if I wanted. But he loves school. He loves the constant challenge that it brings. He loves competing with peers. Talking over ideas with other kids in his class. He's what some would have in years past called a nerd, but in the coolest possible way. He just loves learning. All. The. Time. School is such a positive experience for him, and one that I am happy to give him.

My second is in 3rd grade and has spent the summer writing letters to friends and making lists of things he wants to do to get ready for school and once school starts. He's my organizer. He loves the predictability of the school day. That lunch happens at a certain time, that gym happens on a certain day, that he knows exactly how long he'll be doing any given thing and can plan ahead for days at a time to be mentally prepared for what is next. When he's home, I think I drive him a little crazy that we don't eat lunch at exactly the same time each day. Or that I can't tell him exactly what we'll be doing 2 Friday's from now. He craves structure and routine beyond what is possible while at home. At least not without making me completely crazy trying to keep up with the plan and no room for adjustment.

My 3rd is in 1st grade and has been asking me how many days until she goes back for the last 3 weeks. She can't wait to see her best friend, to get to know her new teacher, to pick out what clothes she will wear each day and plan out how she wants me to do her hair. She loves to learn and is agreeable and adjusts to pretty much any situation. I know she will thrive wherever she is planted, but school brings her joy, so it brings me joy.

It's not that I can't stand my kids, or that I could never homeschool, or that I need *me* time (though don't get me wrong, I do need that sometimes too). But that I'm helping them grow by sending them to school, I'm giving them experiences and challenges that they love. And we are lucky to have a fantastic school that provides them with these things. 5 years ago I was scared to start our public school journey and didn't know what to expect, but what I have seen has gone beyond any expectations I could have hoped for. My kids are loved, and learning and thriving with teachers and staff who truly love what they do and want to help my kids succeed, not fit a mold.

So I'm excited that they are back at school today, and I can't wait to hear all about it when they get home!

And the 2 littles and I had fun grocery shopping and wandering the aisles of Target

Friday, August 18, 2017

Back to School!

We start school on Monday, I can't believe the summer is already over! But we're all more than ready to get back into some sort of routine.

This year, with a new baby coming in just about 7 weeks, I'm feeling some extra pressure to get organized from the start and set ourselves up for a smooth school year.

We've spent this week getting ready for school, and I thought I'd share a few of the things we're doing to make mornings easier.

I try really hard to make the kids healthy and varied lunches. But I'll be honest, by December, we usually fall into the peanut butter and jelly rut (which works since my kids like peanut butter and jelly) and eventually we are scrambling in the mornings to even get those made.

Enter frozen ahead of time homemade uncrustable sandwiches! For the days I know are coming when I just don't have the time to make lunch or even get the kids to make their own sandwiches. Grab in the morning and they are thawed by lunch!

I picked up this Pampered Chef cut and seal tool a few years ago and it makes the perfect copycat uncrustable sandwiches using your own favorite ingredients.

We typically fill ours with natural peanut butter (we are not a peanut free school, Sunbutter is a great alternative if yours is) and strawberry jam. But you can use any sort of filling that freezes.

I spoon the filling into the middle of the bread to leave the edges clean and save those in the freezer to make french toast casserole of stuffing later. No waste!

After they are all assembled, I flash freeze and then throw them all in a freezer bag to grab as needed.

So now we have 4 weeks worth of sandwiches in our freezer for the days we just don't have time to make lunch!

Next thing we did to speed up the mornings, was prep some overnight oatmeal that they can quickly get out themselves in the morning for breakfast.

I bought some extra half pint canning jars to make sure we had 25 dedicated *just* to school day breakfasts.

There are a million recipes for overnight oats on pinterest. We've used some in the past, but mostly just wing it at this point with whatever we are in the mood for. We went simple this week, and I let the kids pick out some pie fillings. We've also done various fruits and honey, but this is a quick way that requires very little prep work. This week they picked strawberry, blueberry and pumpkin.

So here are the ingredients I gathered:
Quick oats
Coconut milk (you can use regular milk and even yogurt in addition to the milk, but we like to keep ours dairy free)
Chia seeds (especially helpful if you aren't using yogurt to help thicken it up)
Blueberry and Strawberry canned pie filling
Canned pumpkin
Honey (to add to the pumpkin since it's not already sweetened)

I am kind of terrible at following recipes and even measuring. I mostly cook by adding things until it looks/tastes good. So all measurements are approximate.

I added about 1/3 cup of quick oats to each jar.

Then 1T of chia seeds.

Scooped a few spoonfuls of pie filling or pumpkin into each jar, and about a tablespoon of honey to the pumpkin jars.

Poured milk over the top leaving a little bit of head room to allow for shaking. (sometimes you have to wait for the milk to settle into the oats a bit and then add some more)

Put on lids, and shake! This is the kids favorite part, and with 25 jars at a time, I am happy to have some help. The pumpkin is thicker than the filling, so a few of those required stirring by spoon to mix completely.

And that's it! They last about a week in the fridge for most toppings, so we are set until next weekend on school morning breakfasts. If your kids prefer hot oatmeal, they can be heated in the microwave, but mine like it better cold, which means one less step for me!

Hoping we can keep this routine up for a while to make mornings run smoothly.

Next, I am brainstorming and researching ways to make getting dressed in the morning a little bit easier each day.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Why Mother's Day Isn't All About Me (and why that's okay)

As a child, I loved Mother's Day. A special day I got to show my mom and Grandmas how much I loved them. Now I was homeschooled, so probably failed with that on the mom front a lot. Obviously my mom wasn't going to make cute school crafts for Mother's Day for us to give to her, instead she spent her energy making sure we honored our Grandmothers with special crafts or gifts. She put herself aside and made the day about honoring HER mother and mother in law. I am sure that wasn't always easy when obviously everyone wants a day all about them. But my mom taught me a lot about self sacrifice and honoring others.

That doesn't mean we ignored my mom or didn't celebrate her at all. We all celebrated together. As a family. I loved Mother's Day because it was a day to be together. I got to see my Grandmas, Grandpas and cousins. It was a great family celebration. The dads would all grill or some years we'd just order pizza or chicken. So the moms didn't have to cook, just enjoy the celebration.

I've been so honored to be included in that celebration over the last 10 years since joining them as a mom.

But the internet is a dark and lonely place sometimes. As Mother's Day approaches lately, I find myself becoming agitated and annoyed. The internet tells me that women deserve flowers and gifts and a day all to themselves because it's all about them. It complains about their selfish mothers or mothers in law who want to see their children on this day. I know these are women who are hurting from other experiences and it's just coming out in this way on this day. But it's easy to let it eat away at you. It becomes a day where no one wins, where we tear each other down. Where we compete for who has the best marriage based on how spoiled they were and their facebook photos.Where we compete with who has the worst Mother's Day based on what they didn't get that they deserve. Where those who care about gifts are told they shouldn't and those who don't are told to stop making it all about them.

It makes it hard to find any sort of joy in the day at all.

But that's when I am thankful for my mom. My mom who taught me with her example that it isn't all about me, that I wouldn't be here if not for her and my grandmas who deserve to be celebrated. One day my day will come where my kids and hopefully grandkids gather around to celebrate with me. But until then, I am perfectly fine celebrating with them. We're all in this together. They know better than anyone what it's like. I am so happy to have them as examples in my life of what motherhood is all about.

Happy Mother's Day Mom, and for the gifts you have given ME that will last more than just a day.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

33. Visit Hale Farm

I'm helping my mom with an early learning initiative at Hale Farm. We're coming up with ideas for preschool and kindergarten aged visitors to learn about what's going on through hands on activities throughout the farm.

So today, we went on a field trip to walk through the farm and brainstorm some ideas for different spaces. The kids had fun visiting some of their favorite spots while we were there too!

First stop was the first settlement cabin, the boys practiced lifting a yoke for water buckets and a big cast iron dutch oven. Jobs they might have helped with 200 years ago.

Cicadas everywhere! And so loud in the woods!

Stopped at their favorite site, glassblowing, to see what was going on. They got to see a vase this time.

Hanging out by the general store.

Comparing the schoolhouse to their elementary school, and Noah trying on the dunce cap

The pretty red faced Tunis

Nathan spotted a fawn hiding near the trail on our way back!

It was a great trip, we came up with lots of fun ideas, and the kids had an awesome day. Looking forward to many more Hale Farm trips this summer!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

31. Pick Strawberries

When I wrote this down on my list, I planned on visiting a berry farm (and we still might do that at some point), but my dear friend Lisa just happens to have TONS of strawberries growing in her backyard. So she invited us over to share some with us. The girls got to play with their best buddies who they missed seeing this week, I got to chat with one of my best friends, and we got some amazing berries to take home!

I always forget how much better fresh berries tastes than store bought berries that are picked unripe and then left to ripen on their way to the store and on the shelf. These are so much sweeter and juicier. We probably could have eaten them all tonight if we wanted, but trying to make them last at least a few days!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

19. Be flower girls

Anthony's sister Anna got married last weekend, and we had a blast! The girls were flower girls for the first time, and it was everything they ever thought it would be. Elise is still talking daily about how much she loved it and how beautiful she was. No confidence issues with this girl ;)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

1. Build a Swingset

We did it! (well mostly Anthony did it, I just held some things here and there and dodged beams falling on me)

And the kids couldn't be happier! They've spent pretty much all day every day playing outside since school has been out. So nice not to have to drive to the park to swing on swings.

Everyone is learning some important lessons in taking turns to. 3 swings, 4 kids.