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29 July 2014

Aligning Schedules and Activities in Summer

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Before we get started, I want to clarify that I am not really going to tackle "real" activities like athletics or major trips.  Instead, today I am going to give you a little glimpse into how I keep myself sane while keeping 4 children entertained and learning all summer long.  The concept is simple, but I am proud of our execution.  I think we are *starting* to get this right (after 8 years and counting of practice...)

So the concept?


Yes, I know.  I told you it was simple, but hold on two seconds and hear me out OK?  One of my problems parenting was that I would get so SO bored participating in the kids' activity of the day.  If they were building with play dough, I could do it for maybe 2 minutes before my lungs started to itch and the small creative creature inside started rearing its impatient head.  My second problem was that if I was doing something other than what the kids were doing, I wasn't spending time with them.  I missed them and I felt a LOT of guilt.

The solution?

DO WHAT THEY DO -- just an adult version.

1.  Here is how it works.  Each evening, I think of what I need or want to get accomplished the next day.  I connect the dots, creating a parallel child/adult activity (see examples below).  Sometimes a parallel activity just means we are in the same room or in a similar quiet or active state, but when done perfectly, it means we are doing the same thing, just differently.  See ART for example :)

2.  Then I look through our craft/toy/book and learning stashes for the kids.  My local thrift store is invaluable to add to the stash for summer! I collect a small laundry basket from all over the house of all the various supplies we will need.

3.  On a clipboard, I write out the very broad "themes" for the day.  The kids get to pick from all of them, from 2 of them or I dictate the order we do them depending on my motherly discretion.  For instance, if I know I need to get painting done on the west side of the house before the sun reaches it, we will do that first.  If there is a reading activity and a writing activity that are equal in my estimation, then the kids can choose which one they want to do first.

Here are two days of examples, including what THEY did and what I did and why they worked together.


WRITING:  The boys were given writing prompts according to their age and a spot in the loft to sit.  I sat with them and caught up on a bunch of letters I needed to write.  I accomplished a chore I wasn't particularly looking forward to and we were all writing together.

ART: They painted sun visors and trains as messy as they wanted to be under the apple tree.  I stayed on the porch and worked on my bird city project.  I could keep my area neat and my project adult, while the kids could be as messy as they wanted on their table.  I could hear them and talk to them, but they were somewhat out of sight so that the mess didn't give me hives and they could do their projects exactly as they wanted.

READING:  The boys were tasked to find birds in a birding book and describe the details of several to each other.  I used this time to zip around the kitchen getting lunch ready and switching the laundry.

SCIENCE: I read them a little about the history of rockets and we talked about acids/bases then shot off a rocket.  While they kept playing with the rocket, I cleaned the porch a bit.


WRITING: The boys are going to start in on DIY hardback books with the prompts they wrote yesterday.  I need to tackle a little writing online, so we will do it at the same time.

ART:  I want to paint bottles and kcups for our garden party, so the boys will work outside beside me with messy glow sand.

PLANTING:  It rained yesterday and will be raining the next three days, so I want to get seeds into the ground NOW.  It is the perfect time!  The kids have also been asking about the seed bombs that they saw me packaging up for Iretreat, so I saved some for them and they are going to go "bomb" our property with seeds while I do the same, in a little more restrained manner.  They will play in the sandbox for the rest of the time.

RUN: Self-explanatory, yes?  If I put running on the list, then they look forward to running games and it gets me active with them.

See how it works?  Simple, but not always easy.  Once the summer is really rolling, I start doing mommy camp in conjunction with my strategy above.  It takes a little bit of planning, but makes our days a little more productive and less chaotic.

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28 July 2014

Your Couch Can Save you Hundreds of Dollars

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Are you here just for the Promo code?  It is RUGLUV06 for 15% rugs from 7/31 to 8/4

Have you ever been area rug shopping?  They are EXPENSIVE.  Hundreds of dollars expensive.  Wayfair has sponsored this post so that I can show you how to keep the price down.  You will still shell out a little cash for floor covering, but I will save you hundreds.  How?  A couch.

Yes, that is right.  I said YOUR COUCH.  Here is the thing -- huge rugs cost an EXORBITANT amount of money, but several smaller rugs that make up the same area will not cost nearly as much.  If you don't have thousands to spend on a huge area rug, this might just be the solution you need.

Here is my space:

How to Save Money on Cheap Wool Rugs

Note the couch and a different rug on either side.  It is stupid simple really.  The expanse of wood flooring behind the couch was way, way too big, but I didn't have the $$$ to drop on a 12x12 rug to fill the space.  The solution?  A $20 cheapo rug that complemented the nice wool rug I already had in color and style.  YOUR COUCH will draw a visual line and split the two, allowing you to use two less expensive rugs in place of a giant, cost-prohibitive one.  Would a 12x12 be better?  Hands down YES.  Is it an option right now?  Hands down NO.

How to Save Money on Cheap Wool Rugs

Put your BIG, nice wool rug in front of the couch where people will be walking on it and tuck the little eye-stretching rug out from the back of the couch.  People will not walk on this one much, so it doesn't matter that the quality is cheapy cheap.

Want to get the same look?  Here are a few options for you!  Why not try coordinated rugs that "match" but not really like this oatmeal rug:

...and this pretty taupe one?

In my case, I have a nice wool rug, but needed to extend its "area" a bit.  If I were buying a new wool rug, I might splurge on this beauty:

Note I left the price off the photo -- it costs a pretty penny!

...but how great would it look couch paired with a solid grey?

 ...or go BOLD with a coordinating floral in brilliant red?

Here are a few more favorites found in the "I can afford it!" rug section at Wayfair:

Find more here -- Rugs Under $250

No matter WHAT you buy -- make sure you use this promo code: RUGLUV06 for 15% rugs from 7/31 to 8/4 
(psst...Wayfair doesn't really DO promo codes very often, so if you are considering a rug purchase, make sure you use the code and stack it with a sales price!)

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24 July 2014

5 minute photoshoot -- Preschool

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Time for another 5 minute photoshoot!  
This time we have a sweet as honey and silly as a goose preschooler.

The photo above was the "money shot" that I was going for.  He makes that smile when he has said something clever, is proud of something he has made or has a joke that he is about to play on someone.  I want to remember that -- not some posed smile.  So here is how we got it...

MINUTE 1 --Take photo of something similar colored on the porch floor background and adjust settings without mentioning a photoshoot to our kiddo.  With an older child, you can do this with the child, but a preschooler will not have the attention span for it.  Caucasian skin and a cardboard box will get pretty close as a stand-in for color.

MINUTE 2 -- "Hey baby!  Be silly!"  This is the time for closeups.  When a preschooler is first told to be silly -- they do ridiculous faces.  You want the "afterglow" of silly, so use this minute to capture those chubby hands between baby and kid years, cute little toes, ears, that crazy hair -- whatever.

MINUTE 3 -- "How old are you?"  After a minute of silly, kiddo is loosened up and an easy, but serious question will make him answer with a smile and look me straight in the eye.  You get one shot at this photo.  Your child will answer with a smile and then FLASH, it is gone.  Be ready for this one.

MINUTE 4  -- Time to get your kiddo to tell that joke...

Keep shooting during the joke because the photo you really want is the "proud face":

MINUTE 5 -- You might get a few more smiles and profiles, but you will have to change locations 
and your moments of attention are probably gone.  That is why Minute #1 is so important!

Want more DIY Photoshoot Ideas?  I have a bunch!

5 Minute Photoshoot for Infants

5 Minute Photoshoot for Babies - 6 WEEKS

5 Minute Photoshoot for Babies - 6 MONTHS

5 Minute Photoshoot for Christmas Cards

5 Minute Photoshoot with Older, Active Children

5 Minute Photoshoot with a Preschooler

How to Photograph Your Family with a Self Timer

How to Survive a Photoshoot with Kids

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