Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Planning

So usually I try to make a "What we did this summer" recap list at the end of summer vacation.  It helps the girls to remember what they did before they get back to school and face the inevitable first week of school "What did you do this summer?" questions.  And, it is a nice keepsake for us to look back and remember the fun times we had.  Some summers fly by and I feel like we didn't get to do much, and then I am surprised when I sit down and type up my list.  This year I want to try something different and create a pre-summer list of all of things that we are hoping to do this summer and then I'll compare it at the end of the summer and see how well we did!

Here goes:

- Work in the garden / yard
- Swim in our new pool (got one of those 15' round inflatable ring pools to help us deal with leaving our beautiful in-ground pool back in NY -- the one thing they couldn't get on the truck!)
- Campfire!
- S'mores!
- Visit the town playground
- Go see a play at our local theater -- planning to take the girls to see "The Emperor's New Clothes!"
- Sleepovers for our eldest daughter
- Playdates for our youngest
- Paint the living room (ok, that's a Mommy & Daddy project...)
- Paint the outside doors (again, Mommy & Daddy...)
- Paint rocks with the girls -- saw a cute craft we want to try!
- Visit the town library
- Try a new-to-us diner in the next town over
- Visit Cathedral of the Pines
- Lobsters at Brown's Lobster Pound  (ok, so we just did this with Grandpa last week, but I'm sure we'll go again!) - my eldest discovered crab cakes and loved them and my youngest discovered the little lobster legs and loved them!
- Swimming at Hampton Beach (NH's ocean beach)
- Swimming & a picnic at Newfound Lake
- 4th of July weekend "up country" at my aunt & uncle's house
- Fireworks
- Visit with my sister-in-law and her family when they come out in July (yay!)
- Nana's visit!
- 8th birthday celebration for Kenzie!
- Clean out the shed (Mom & Dad -- have to hold myself accountable for some items, might as well put them here!)
- Girls & Daddy play street hockey in the driveway -- one of their favorite outdoor pastimes!
- Swim at the town pool - beautiful with a splash park and water slide into the pool!
- Swim at the town's swimming pond
- Swim at the little lake that we found nearby - one of the girls' favorite places to go!
- Visit the NH State Park that is just down the road from us
- Go to see a movie - Planes 2 is coming out on Kenzie's birthday - she's very excited!
- Go to Kimball Farms for ice cream
- Find the Girl Scout store -- have to get my little Brownie a sash!  (Oh, and then sew everything on to the sash...)
- Go to see the summer production of "The Little Mermaid" musical at the high school (one of Liv's BFF's is in it!)
- Laura Ingalls Wilder Day at the Genesee Country Village & Museum - of course!!!  Wouldn't miss it!
- Trip to NY to visit Grandpa, Gramby, friends & family
- Trip to Long Island to visit Grammy & the LI relatives
- Girls to have an overnight with Grandpa & Gramby on their sailboat
- De-clutter toys in the girls' rooms and the play room -- not necessarily a fun activity, but important!
- "Street Name" project -- if Liv and I work on it this summer, I promise to share!
- Start playhouse project?  This one will be a LOT of work, so we'll have to see - again, if it gets done, I'll share!
- Buy a new car -- fun for the whole family!  ;)
- Bake with the girls
- Have Auntie Pam over to visit
- Try new recipes -- 1 a week?  Let's see if we can stick to this!
- Work on family scrapbook project
- Vacation Bible School -- Liv is required to do 20 hours of community service in 8th grade and has the opportunity to help out with our church's Vacation Bible School -- she can earn 15 hours!

Ok!  Sounds like a busy summer!  We'll see how far we get with all of this -- wish us luck!!  I'll let you know how it goes in September!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Brag Book for Child's Schoolwork

We are in the midst of the last week of school before summer vacation, and the girls (and teachers!) are cleaning out their desks and lockers and bringing home all of that great end of the year stuff!  All of that stuff that I look through and then think, "What do I do with all of this?"  Most years I put it into the girls' "special boxes" aka 20 gallon plastic tubs that are now stored in my big storage closet (because our new house doesn't have a basement).  I always think that I should pull those tubs out to make more room -- at the rate that I am going, by the time these girls are in their 20's they will each have no less than TEN "special tubs!" 

My littlest girlie came home with the most wonderful thing that her 2nd grade teacher - bless his heart - put together!  It's called a "brag book" and it's a 1" 3-ring view binder with plastic sleeve protectors inside and inside the plastic sleeve protectors are various things that my daughter did in school throughout the year!!  A few pieces of artwork, a few pieces of writing, a memory booklet that she made to remember 2nd grade, a birthday book filled with handwritten letters from her classmates -- those were wonderful!  What a FABULOUS idea!!  Anyone who worked with me at my former job knows how much I ADORE view binders!!  I had a floor to ceiling bookshelf filled with them -- all white, all with labels on the spine in the same style font -- a sight to behold!  I think this is a great solution to my schoolwork storage issue!  I can put together snapshots of my girls' schoolwork for each grade - nice and neat!  And I should be able to get all of their binders in ONE tub -- woo hoo!  An even less expensive, greater space-saving idea would be to put the work into 10" x 13" envelopes - one for each year.

If I were starting this with them when they were in Kindergarten or Preschool (because I have TONS of preschool stuff too...), using the view binders I would have had my girls draw a picture to slide in the front of the binder and write their own name and age -- what a sweet keepsake I think this will be!  I'm late to the party (as my 13-year-old would say), but I can still have the girls do that from here on out.  For the early binders I'll just find a piece of their artwork from each year that I can use.  If you use the envelope idea, you can do the same thing, having the child draw on the front of the envelope. 

Can't wait -- great summer project for us!

What do you do with all of the school stuff that your kids bring home at the end of the year?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Trying New Things - Breakfast Edition

The other day I was grocery shopping with my littlest one and I remembered that we were running out of the cereal that she seemed to like that week.  She's very particular about what she eats -- I hate to say that she is picky, because she eats a lot of different things, but she's very particular about what she wants for breakfast and lunch each day.  Some days she's all about pancakes, some days she wants a "big breakfix" as she calls it, with Daddy's omelets and sausage or bacon.  Sometimes she's in the mood for cinnamon rolls, sometimes she wants a peanut butter and banana sandwich, and sometimes she's on a kick with a specific cereal.  Even her cereal preferences vary greatly!  She likes everything from Lucky Charms to plain Cheerios (no sugar added -- I always needed sugar on those when I was a kid!) to Raisin Bran without the raisins!  I can't remember the cereal she was on last week, but I know we were running low so I asked if she wanted another box.  She said, "Let me see what they have" and began to browse through the cereal aisle.  She came back with Cinnamon Toast Crunch -- her older sister is a big cinnamon fan, but she herself does not usually gravitate toward cinnamon flavored things...  I said, "Really?  Are you sure?"  Yep, I'm sure.  "Have you TRIED it before?"  Oh yeah!  "And you liked it?"  Oh yeah!  "Ok, toss it in the cart."

This is always a struggle of mine -- when I think I know what my child likes and dislikes and they are insistent that I do not...  I hate to waste money on things they are not going to like -- I can't tell you how many times my poor husband has been stuck eating some bizarre "children's" yogurt that our youngest has insisted she will love!  She's famous for trying something and telling us that she likes it, but she's going to "save it for later."  That means she's never touching it again!  But I also hate to discourage my kids from trying new foods -- I've even used the argument, when trying to introduce something new that they are certain they will not like, "You should try it!  It could end up being your favorite thing and you don't know it yet!"  (Tried that with my eldest and oranges -- yep, not her favorite thing!) 

Anyway, I gave in and bought the Cinnamon Toast Crunch and the next morning I serve it to my girlie who, as I might have guessed, picked at it and didn't eat much.  The day after that, I asked what she wanted for breakfast and she asked for the cereal that she had been eating the week before (you know, the kind I tried to talk her into in the store's cereal aisle...).  I resigned myself to the fact that I was now eating the Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast and poured myself a bowl.  As I sat with her eating the cereal, I discovered that it gets soggy really quickly -- I was not a fan!  I said this to her and she said, "I KNOW!"  And I said, "So WHY did you want to buy this cereal?"  And she said, "I have NO idea!"  Sigh...

What do you do in situations like this?  Do you give in against your better judgment and hope for the best, or do you hold your ground?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Birthmark - A Gift from God

My girls and I went to 5:00pm mass tonight at our church, and during the homily, our pastor spoke of the special gifts that God gives to us.  While he spoke of this, I noticed my 7-year-old touching her cheek over and over and she poked me to get my attention and then continued stroking her cheek.  I realized that she was stroking her "cafe au lait" birthmark on the side of her face!  She sat there through most of the homily, stroking her cheek, smiling, and nodding knowingly because since she was very young we have always told her that her birthmark came from God.  A couple of weeks ago during the homily, I noticed that she had dozed off (!!) so I was delighted to see that tonight she was a) awake, and b) apparently listening and relating to what the priest was saying!  So sweet! 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Making Connections in a New Town

Moving to a new place can seem overwhelming - you are essentially starting life over, needing to figure out where to shop, eat, buy gas, go for entertainment, and meet people!  We moved from a city of about 250,000 people to a town with around 6,000 people.  We have been here a little more than 6 months and we are still finding our way around in some aspects, but all in all we are feeling quite at home which is a great feeling!  We had a few things in our favor -- we moved to a place where we have some family connections.  My mom's family is from New Hampshire, and I have an aunt and uncle about 90 minutes north of us, another aunt about 60 minutes to the east, a cousin and his family about 90 minutes south, and another cousin about 40 minutes away.  Already, we have seen all of them more this year than we have in the past few years combined -- this has been a real blessing for us!

The other thing that we have in our favor, is that we have two school-aged children -- when you have children in school, you have so many opportunities to make connections and meet new people.  Over the winter when I was in hibernation mode, one of the only times I braved the cold each week was to take my daughters to Sunday school and to church (another great place to connect with people!).  Through my daughters' Sunday school I was asked to help out with this coming year's youth ministry (much to my eldest daughter's chagrin...) which will help me get more involved in our new community and meet some people.

Our eldest daughter, Olivia, has made some wonderful friends through school and I have had some very nice conversations with a couple of her friends' parents either while exchanging our kids for sleepovers or while attending school functions.  One of the moms and I have a lot in common from working in the same field and we are looking forward to planning a girls night out for dinner! 

While Olivia has made a number of great friends and absolutely loves school, it's harder to tell if our youngest, Mackenzie, is making connections.  She keeps things more closely to the vest than her older sister, who will have filled you in on her whole life each day by bedtime (not complaining -- LOVE that about her and pray that she always feels that comfortable talking to us!).  The little one tells us things more on a need to know basis, so I've been worrying about how to get her connected and making friends.  My eldest plays an instrument and was able to join the school band right away -- that was a wonderful way for her to connect right away with kids who shared a common interest.  Most of her very close friends are in band with her and that has also given the rest of us a connection to the town because we go to the school concerts and also enjoyed seeing her march with her marching band in our town's Memorial Day parade. 

Our little one does not play an instrument -- she's in 2nd grade and the school does not offer music until 5th (not to mention she is adamant about NOT wanting to play an instrument!  We'll see...).  As I've mentioned before, I was a Girl Scout leader back in NY and I was looking forward to getting my little girlie involved in Girl Scouts -- another great instant way to connect!  When we first arrived, she was finding it to be enough of a change to go to a new school -- was not interested in getting back into Girl Scouts right away.  That was ok with me at that point because we were living in a sea of boxes and just getting acclimated to a new house, town, etc.  One day at Sunday school, I overheard a mom talking about her daughter being in Girl Scouts -- another tip for making connections in a new town, keep your ears open and don't be afraid to join in (politely, of course!) on other people's conversations!  ;)  I asked about her daughter's troop but found out that it is in another town (our church encompasses 3 towns) so I decided to keep looking for something more close to home.  At some point after that, I sent an e-mail through the Girl Scout website, expressing interest.  They responded about a week later and someone was supposed to call me, but I never heard from anyone.  At that point we had missed the cookie sale and I decided to wait and get her enrolled for next year.  Enter last week's science fair at my eldest daughter's school!  While talking to one of her friend's mothers (who I had met at Medieval Night at her school a few months ago), she was asking about how my girls were transitioning and somehow I mentioned Mackenzie and wanting to get her into Girl Scouts.  This mom has an older daughter who is not in Girl Scouts and two young sons (also, obviously, not in Girl Scouts...), and yet she happens to be friends with the leader of a troop of 2nd graders who happen to meet at my youngest's school!  (I know, note to self, next time just call the school and ask directly!)  We exchanged e-mail addresses and she e-mailed me her friend's contact info. 

Coincidentally, the same day that I received the contact info for the troop leader, my husband and I took Mackenzie to the town playground (her sister was recovering from a sleepover) and she ran into a little girl that recognized her from school.  They had a wonderful time playing together - for 2 hours! - and I ended up talking to the girl's mother and it turns out her daughter is in the same Girl Scout troop!  Now Mackenzie, who had been hesitant to go back to Girl Scouts, is super excited about it!  While the other mom and I were chatting, she also filled me in on things like where to go for 4th of July fireworks, a referral for a good pediatrician, ideas for birthday party entertainment, and we exchanged contact info so that our girls can get together for a play date.  I e-mailed the troop leader and while the troop is wrapping up for the year (not a surprise, I just wanted to get her in for next year), she invited my daughter and I to join them for their last meeting which is this Weds.  I also volunteered to help out with the troop, which will give me something fun to do with my daughter and also help me to connect with some other parents. 

We've really been enjoying making connections here and establishing roots in our new town, and I'm so excited that my little Mackenzie has the opportunity to make some connections and meet new friends like her sister Olivia has!  And the fact that my husband and I are meeting people through our girls -- all the better!  It's great to be friendly with the parents of your children's friends -- not only does it give you peace of mind when your child is hanging out at their home, but it gives you something in common to talk about when you see them!