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For Those Of You Struggling With The Transition Into Summer

This first day of summer has snuck up on me.

I’m not prepared. I’m not organized.

It’s kind of like when Christmas seems so far away, and you know you have plenty of time. And then all of a sudden, BAM. It’s Christmas Eve Day and you haven’t wrapped a single present. You haven’t even finished your shopping.

And you freak out.

I am freaking out a little bit.

Swim practice times have changed. My coaching hours are completely different. Summer swim team is starting. I started teaching swim lessons here at home yesterday. I am also close to launching a new and improved website and I have kind of a massive amount of work to do for that. From home.

And all the kids are here now. Every day. All. Day. Long.

Oh yeah. And it’s Number 3’s birthday today.

I feel so overwhelmed that I’m kind of paralyzed. I’m having trouble knowing or deciding where to start.

This paralysis leads to avoidance, where, inevitably, I end up on Facebook.

And Facebook is flooded with last day of school pictures/celebrations/whatever.

Ugh.

I managed to take a first day of school picture for some of the kids back in August..

But there was no last day of school pic.

Apparently the thing to do these days is have your kids wear the same outfit on the first and last day of school. And then document both days.

At least if you really have your shit together.

I don’t have my shit together.

I didn’t decorate the driveway with chalk or buy sparklers or make a cake with a custom message or go out for celebratory ice cream yesterday.

And today I didn’t start Number 3’s birthday off with a special birthday breakfast. In fact, I’ve planned nothing for him.

For me, right now, the goal is no blood, no fire, and no death.

Seriously.

And the no blood goal is pretty lofty.

I am functioning on the basics. Keep everyone alive.

That’s it.

Today I am just going to tread water. It is only about keeping my head above water.

I’m not worrying about forward progress. There will be no pressure to check anything off a to-do list. The kids may eat Frosted Mini Wheats for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

They will survive. If I keep it simple for today, we all will.

Tomorrow, I’ll make a small list, and start to pick away at it.

I love summer. I really do. It is BY FAR my favorite season.

But this year the transition into it has not been smooth. At all.

When Number 6 first started preschool, he had a very hard time transitioning from one activity to another. Any time he had to stop one thing and start another, he would be inconsolable.

At the time I was frustrated by this. I couldn’t relate.

But today, I can.

100%.

If I were four years old, I’d be hysterical right now.

So if you, like me, feel like you are one of the only people on the planet who is overwhelmed by this change in routine, who is struggling with it a little bit (or a lot), and who is not even close to 100% excited that the school year has ended, you are absolutely not the only one.

And it’s okay to give yourself some time. Take the day. Take a week (or a month) if you need to!

Let the kids watch too much TV. Let them eat crap for a day.

Just keep everyone alive. And survive.

You can start to sort things out tomorrow. Or next week.

You’ll get your shit mostly or sort of or maybe just marginally together eventually.

Until then, just breathe. Take comfort in knowing that at least one other person out there gets it. And you are definitely not alone.

 

 

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Last Day, First Day

Last day of school, summer is here.

Last day of my baby’s kindergarten year.

Last day packing lunches and taking the bus.

Last day for alarm clocks and making a fuss.

Last day for ripping the brush through the hair,

and frantically searching for something to wear.

Last day of forgetting to send in the notes,

and practicing placement of commas and quotes.

Last day of reading logs and Common Core hell.

Last day the kids impatiently wait for the bell.

Last day solving math problems five different ways,

and Pajama and New Word and Wacky Hair Days.

Last day the bus honks because I am late.

Last day missing class parties ’cause I fucked up the date.

Last day of conferences and concerts and plays,

first day of the pool and the sun and its rays.

Last day forgetting lunch boxes inside backpacks,

First day of 24/7 requests for More snacks!

Last day that the power school portal is checked,

First day of the house being constantly wrecked.

Last day drinking my morning coffee in peace,

First day teaching chores requiring some elbow grease.

Last day dealing with the jerky school kid who’s mean.

First day of the quest for non stinging sunscreen.

Last day of looking for two (sort of) matching socks.

First day of playing with dirt, sticks and rocks.

Last day of forging a signature that’s fake.

First day of spending the day at the lake.

First day of running around barefoot in the grass,

(Also, first day of kids being a pain in my ass).

Last day of I need poster board by 7 a.m. tomorrow!

First day going to the library for good books to borrow.

Last day of phone calls cause the kids forgot their stuff.

First day of hot dogs and peanut butter and fluff.

Last day catching colds and getting sicker and sicker,

First day of fights and kids who constantly bicker.

Last day of saying Wake up, Sleepyhead!

First day arguing over when It’s time to go to bed!

Last day of my freedom and my liberty.

First day of an audience when I poop and I pee.

 

Last day is bittersweet and sometimes a bummer,

but at least it’s not winter…

Bring on the summer!

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What I’ll Teach My Kids This Summer (It Won’t Be Math Facts)

This summer, I will not complete summer math packets.

I will not practice math facts with my kids or even touch a flashcard. I will not sit my kids in front of a computer to “play math games” or even utter the letters IXL.

I will not look at a reading log. I will not keep track of reading minutes, and I will not keep a tally of books read.

I will not purchase any of the big ass first grade or second grade reading or writing workbooks that are currently on display at Costco.

I will not force my kids to practice their handwriting.

I will not spend one goddamn second even thinking about the summer slide.

Because as far as I’m concerned, there is a whole lot of equally (or more) important stuff that slides during the school year.

Instead of focusing on all that stuff, I will do this:

I will take my kids to the library. I will encourage them to check out books. And if they choose to check out books (they will — they always do), I will read them to my kids. Or with my kids. Or I will let them read to me.

And I SWEAR TO GOD, this summer we will return all of our books on time. *crosses fingers and holds breath*

I will teach my children about the importance of down time. Of rest for your body, and rest for your brain.

I will encourage spontaneity, and do my best not to overschedule.

I will devote time to teaching the kids.

I will teach all of them how to operate the washing machine and the dryer, the dishwasher, and the vacuum. Even the five year old. Most of them know how. But not all of them. Not yet.

I will teach my kids how to plant seeds and then take care of them.

And then I will devote time to training them. Not training them how to have perfect penmanship.

I will train them all on how to load a dishwasher (efficiently enough so that I don’t fell compelled to rearrange it), how to empty the litter box, how to replace the bag in the garbage can, how to clean a toilet and how to fold a fitted sheet.

Okay, just kidding about folding the fitted sheets. I fucking hate those things.

But I pledge to devote my teaching and training time not to worksheets, packets, math facts and reading logs, but to developing better organizational skills and encouraging self discipline, responsibility and accountability.

I pledge to hold regular, weekly family meetings so that we all feel we have a voice and a duty regarding what goes on in our home.

I will encourage my kids to spend as much time as possible outside and live by the principle, the dirtier you are by the end of the day, the better. And I will get dirty with my kids.

Maybe I’ll teach them all how to make one fairly healthy meal from start to finish.

But I’ll also have them take most of their “baths” in the pool and feed them way too many hot dogs.

I’ll let them stay up too late and I’ll let them sleep in whenever they can.

By the time September rolls around, they may not remember what 7 x 9 is in less than .12 seconds.

But they’ll hopefully be more rested, more responsible, more proactive, and more self-sufficient than they were in June.

And that’s what matters most not only to me, but to the greater good.

So this summer, that’s what I’ll be devoting my time to.

All those packets and logs and unfinished workbooks?

Between you and me, they make pretty good firestarters. And making s’mores is also on my summer syllabus.

So I think we’ll use them for that.

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Your Middle Schooler Doesn’t Need A Cell Phone

This morning I received an email from the middle school principal where Number 3 and 4 go to school.

In the email, the principal was asking for parents’ help in a number of areas. One was with fidget spinners.  They’ve become quite a distraction at school.

I’ll admit I contributed to this problem. Number 3 and 4  both have (fucking) fidget spinners. I sincerely regret getting them for the kids, especially since they don’t use them for the purpose they were originally intended. They don’t need them. At all.

And if I hate them, I can only imagine how teachers are feeling right now.

So the fidget spinners have been relegated to home. And we have already completely lost one. Thank God.

The next thing the principal was looking for help with was cell phones:

Our goal is to minimize distractions during the day. To do this, we ask students not to be actively on or looking at cell phones during the day unless they are in the cafeteria or a classroom where teachers allow it. We also ask that you refrain from texting your child during the school day.

These have also become a distraction at school.

Okay. I’m just gonna come right out and say two things.

First, middle schoolers should not be allowed to have cell phones in school. There is absolutely no reason for them. None.

They still have those “old fashioned” phones there. You know, the ones with cords attached to them? I can attest that they work. My kids use them to communicate successfully with me all the time.

Second, your middle schooler doesn’t need a phone not just in school.

Your middle schooler doesn’t need a phone at all. Period.

Yeah.

I said it.

Your ten/eleven/twelve/thirteen/ and YES, EVEN fourteen-year-old kid doesn’t need a cell phone.

But I’m divorced and my ex is an asshole and I need to be able to get in touch with my kid.

Perhaps in some cases, this is true. There may be some situations where you must be able to get in touch with your child on a cell phone because your ex prevents any and all communication otherwise.

If that’s the case, then sure. Get your kid a cell phone.

But not a smart phone.

YOUR CHILD DOES NOT NEED A SMARTPHONE.

In fact, nobody NEEDS a smartphone.

 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stay on top of my kids as it is. Once I put a smartphone in their hands, I’ve got a multitude of new responsibilities.

I’ve now got all sorts of shit I need to monitor in addition to the non-smartphoney stuff.

There’s You Tube. Google. Those are bad enough.

Then there are a billion apps.

There are the ones I know about. Like, say, Snapchat.

Your kids are supposed to be 13 to open up a Snapchat account. But your kids aren’t stupid. They can lie, make up an age, and open an account very easily. They know this.

I know because my kids have done it. On an iPod.

But then there are the apps I’ve never even heard of.

Did you know there’s an app called Private Photos (also called Calculator%)? I just learned about this one today. Here’s the description:

Private Photo (Calculator%) app is private photos and videos hidden behind calculator. Anyone who starts this application looks at a calculator but if you put in passcode it will open up private area. All files are securely stored in the App and remain completely private and confidential.

That’s fucking scary.

I also learned about a new challenge circulating around social media now called the Blue Whale Challenge. This challenge is basically a list of fifty dares encouraging kids to do participate in risky behaviors (like sitting on the edge of a roof) with  the final item on the list asking participants to kill themselves.

This is a real thing.

A real fucking scary thing.

If you are putting a smartphone in the hands of your children, then you are opening up Pandora’s Box. And if you aren’t prepared to deal with the shit that’s gonna come flying out of that box, then don’t put your kids in a position to be exposed to it. Because once your kids finds out about it, she’s gonna tell my kid about it.

And I don’t want my kid finding out about stuff he or she has no business knowing about because you don’t want to say no to your kids.

I know it sucks to say no. I know kids are relentless.

Trust me, I know it’s no fun to hear But I’m the ONLY ONE in the WHOLE SCHOOL who doesn’t have a cell phone/Instagram-Facebook-Twitter-Musicly account.

I guarantee you are not the only whose middle schoolers don’t have cell phones.

I guarantee that because my kids don’t have them. And they won’t have them until they are mature enough and responsible enough to own them.

When will they be mature enough and responsible enough to own them?

When they can pay for them.

If my kids are not responsible enough to earn the money to buy their own phone and pay the monthly bill, then they are not responsible enough to deal with the contents of Pandora’s Box.

We so easily confuse wants and needs with our children.

Your child may want a cell phone.

But your child does not need access to Google twenty-four hours a day.

Your child does not need to be able to text her friends constantly.

Your child does not need  Snapchat or Musicly or Instagram.

In fact, your child does not need any apps at all.

What does your child need?

Your child needs human interaction.

Your child needs to learn how to hold a conversation.

Your child needs to learn how to make eye contact.

Your child needs to learn how to communicate with their friends and people in general the old fashioned way.

In person.

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