Monday, August 19, 2013

Balancing Act {+Giveaway!}

Today is the first day of school! (Adorable pics to come in another post!) We can hardly believe how fast the summer went by....of course, as Lucas keeps pointing out, it is still summer even though school has started. True, but school means the end of late bedtimes, lazy mornings (for the boys in the household anyway, remember, I'm a full-time work-outside-the-home mama!), and carefree days. And school means the start of a balancing act -- getting lunches packed, homework finished, getting to bed earlier and waking up earlier.

Anyway, the metaphor I'm going for here is that summer = carefree easy living and school = lots of stuff going on that requires planning and preparation and balance.

So when Balance Bar offered to send me a back-to-school pack including Balance Bar mini energy bars, I jumped on it.

And then I promptly used a few of them to create some back-to-school presents for the two ladies in our school's front office. I thought this would be a nice gesture for two reasons. One, it must be really tough to be in the front office during the first week of school. And, two, I'm on year two of my campaign to kill these ladies with kindness. My previous efforts were all on behalf of the PTA, but now that I'm not president anymore, I decided they should be from our family.

I also threw in a package of new pens because front desk pens just disappear, right?

But back to balance -- one thing I did to help make mornings easier was to create a morning checklist chart for Lucas. It includes his tasks (written and clip art) in one column with a clock showing the time in another column. It starts with wake-up at 7:30 and ends with shoes on at 8:15. Today he was up and had everything finished by 7:05--but I don't expect that level of enthusiasm to last!

Balance Bar is inviting us all to join in a back to school twitter party tomorrow at 2pm EST to share tips and hopefully pick up some new ones!

And I'm inviting you to share one way that you find some balance in your life to win a Balance Bar back-to-school giveaway including some Balance Bar mini energy bars and an awesome reusable snack bag from itzy ritzy.

Just leave a comment by August 26 and I'll randomly draw the winner on August 27. The winner must provide her/his name, U.S. mailing address and phone number in response to my e-mail notification.

Balance Bar provided me a back-to-school care package including Balance Bar mini energy bars and an itzy ritzy reusable snack bag. They are providing the same as a giveaway to one lucky reader. All opinions and ideas are my own.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sending Summer Out with a Blast

I can not believe summer is nearly over. Lucas goes back to school -- 2nd grade, wow! -- on Monday and Nathaniel starts nursery school after Labor Day. This summer has flown by!

Lucas and I decided to send summer out with a blast by hosting a water fight party. Honestly, I don't know who is more excited about it, him or me. We hand-delivered these invitations to 12 friends (boys and girls) this weekend. Most of the kids have younger siblings who are also good friends, but we're just inviting the "big" kids to this one (and are arranging an off-site play date for Nathaniel) to minimize the potential for tears if things get a little rough.

Overall, I'm anticipating that this will be an incredibly easy party to host. Here are my plans:

In advance:
X Create invitations
X Deliver invitations
X Gather up all the water guns we own
-- Purchase watermelon, trail mix, drinks, etc.

Day of:
-- Fill baby pool with water and spray paint a perimeter circle around it (for refill station)
-- Fill water balloons and hide several dozen around the yard (this will hopefully be a surprise for Lucas, too!)
--Hide extra water guns around the yard (everyone will bring their own, but we thought this would be a fun surprise, too)

During party:
--Watch from a safe distance
--Refill baby pool as needed
--Serve snacks when kids get tired (or too insane and need a break!)
--Turn on sprinkler for the rest of the party

Does this sound like fun or what?!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 12, 2013

50 Book Challenge

Lucas finished first grade below grade level in reading. Not only was he behind, but by last school year, he had decided that he hated reading and that he couldn't read.

For someone who literally can't remember a time when I didn't love, love, love reading, this has been a real struggle for me as a parent.

He got special attention and time with the reading intervention specialist at school and we took him to weekly tutoring with a neighbor who is pretty amazing at what she does. And he made great strides, but still, professed his hate for reading and that he'd never be able to do it.

We knew we needed to make sure he read over the summer. He'd made great progress the last few months of school and I knew it would be so easy for him to loose all that momentum. June was incredibly busy and by the end of the month, he'd only read a handful of books. So in July I decided to set a summer challenge for Lucas: to read 50 books before school started.

We have a giant mirror in our dining room and I used teacher bulletin board letters to write "Lucas 50 Book Challenge" across the top of the mirror. Each book = a paper ring to give him a visual of success.

There were some tears, lots of frustrations, lots of cajoling and some yelling, from all of us. But, all that was forgotten when Lucas read his 50th book yesterday and we all savored his triumph and success. Abel and I are so incredibly proud of Lucas and -- even better -- he's really proud of himself.

He might still profess that he hates reading, but now we have tangible evidence to show him when he tells us that he can't read. Because all know that after reading 50 books, he definitely can read!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 5, 2013

So much

San Augustin, El Salvador; Photo by Abel

I wonder if it slipped right past you that I mentioned that I was taking advantage of having the house to myself to host a girls fact, I had an entire week at home alone. Every mama's dream, right? It was luxurious but I also put in a pretty good amount of work cleaning, organizing and purging (and actually working at my job!). The organizing part (toys and bedrooms, at least) lasted for about five minutes after the kids got home, but it was great to purge several large bags of old toys and ephemera and to give all the upstairs rooms a really deep clean. (Even the baseboards, folks!)

The cause of my time alone was that Abel went on a week-long work and community-building trip with our church to visit our sister parish in a very, very rural town in El Salvador. And the boys were at my parents' house for their annual week of Camp Grammy and Grampy.

They all had an incredible week, for different reasons, of course. And Abel came home with lots and lots of stories to share.

One of the most poignant was that he was talking with a young girl (Abel is fluent in Spanish, which was a huge help to him and the group!) and was answering her many, many questions about life in the US. He got out his phone and used the WiFi* to show her some Google Earth pictures of our town and she asked about the rows of small buildings just outside of town. Well, that's the local storage unit facility. How do you explain such excess to a young girl living in such poverty? He told her that in the US some people have so much stuff that they buy extra space away from their house to store it. Her eyes opened in amazement.

When he told me that story, I don't think I've ever been so grateful that we live in a relatively (for the US, but of course luxurious by so many standards) small home and that we definitely do not have a storage unit!

I was thinking a lot about this story and about the young girl this past weekend when Lucas was begging to buy something (er, have something bought for him!) nearly every single second. So much about parenthood is so hard, but I definitely find that one of my biggest challenges with Lucas, especially, is this constant desire for things. Even silly small things that may only cost 50 cents or $1 that he begs for desperately then forgets about they day after he gets them. It is so much easier to give in and buy something for him (or let him buy it) but in the long-run that is not the solution, and not the lesson I want to teach him. Neither Abel or I give in all the time, but I still think that we do give in too often. This is definitely an area that I need to work on as a parent.

*He had limited access to WiFi in parts of the town and yet for a few days there was no running water. Crazy.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!