School's out for summer!
Summer has finally arrived as the kids are just days from being done with school. I can't believe how fast the time has gone. Every year, I go in to summer thinking we're going to have a schedule, keep the kids doing their school work, have fun and engaging activities every week and then by mid-summer I inevitably let the boys watch 3 hours of TV so I can get stuff done. My goal for the summer is to not let this happen, ha!
I've been doing some research and have come up with a plan. We have our morning routine already mapped out.
I would like to incorporate some sort of theme every week to keep the boys engaged in learning. A great resource I've found is A Mom with a Lesson Plan blog. She has some great ideas on how to get kids involved in projects and learning new things.
So, this weekend we're going to sit down and come up with things we'd like to learn about this summer. Maybe it's different countries, animals, science projects, historic people, or art. Then every monday morning the boys will take turns drawing out one of the themes. Our goal for the day is to plan our week and go to the library to get books about the theme. Then we can come up with food we can make (if we're doing countries), art projects, outdoor activities, and so on. I've learned that the more the boys are involved in the planning the more cooperative they are in doing the activities!
Every week, I'll post our theme and what our plan is so you can follow along or incorporate the same lessons we're doing :)
In the meantime, we've already started our "bored jar" for the summer. When I've failed the plan and I hear, "what can we do, I'm bored," they can go pick an activity from this jar.
Can you believe the kids only have 2 weeks of school left? I can't either! I'm trying to get as much done in these last 2 weeks, so I can really enjoy this first part summer. I only have them signed up for two activities this year (I'll probably regret this decision mid-summer), to give us plenty of flexibility to swim, go on day trips and spend time with friends and family. Obviously the kids are counting down to summer as well and I want to make the last day special and celebrate with a surprise gift full of summer fun toys. I saw an "end of school" basket on Pinterest and I knew I wanted to do something similar for my oldest. What a fun way to kick start summer break!
So here's the deal.... I teamed up with the Gingerbread House and they are going to offer the Normal Housewives fans a 10% discount to build your very own "Summer Starts Now" bag for your child. And I sent them this really cute graphic so they can customize it with your child's name! They have this larger bag, as seen here, or they have a smaller bag you can fill.
I opted for a Mini Marshmallow bow (I can't wait to try this!!), a ball that bounces on the water, a small telescope, a bird whistle and a Copterang. Their selection of summer toys fills an entire room so there is plenty to pick from and they are always getting in new stuff!
Now, let's just hope the weather cooperates this summer so we can spend the majority of our days outside playing! We deserve a perfect summer after the winter we had, right?
Meet My Mom
Let me just start by saying I have the best mom ever! Don't we all say that once we're grown up and no longer living under their rules? Nonetheless, she is pretty awesome :)
My mom is a graphic design professor at Illinois Wesleyan and an AMAZING artist. Although she's been there for 25 years, she had an interesting journey getting there, starting in medical records, then launching a children's clothing line, and finally getting her master's in Art at ISU all while my brother and I were kids! To say she's a hard worker is an understatement!
I think it's safe to say that I wouldn't be who I am today if it weren't for her unconditional love, support, guidance and willingness to laugh! She's the person I call for a second opinion, to vent my frustrations, to share great news, parenting advice, clothing and accessorizing help and the list goes on and on!
It's no surprise that my mom has taught me a lot about life.....
It's okay to fail because you learn and grow the most from failures
Parents never want to see their kids fail, but I think failure is a great opportunity for learning. I don't remember all my failures, but I will tell you I will never misspell "lemonade". It was the one word I got wrong in a spelling bee in the 4th grade that prevented me from moving on in the competition. My mom didn't call the teacher and ask for another chance, she gave me a hug and told me to keep practicing and I'd do better the next time. My mom nurtured us through our failures, gave us support, but she would never try to fix it for us. I am truly grateful for that life lesson and try to do the same with my children.
When you get knocked down, there are always reasons to get back up
My mom's successes have never been handed to her, she's had to work very hard to get where she is and she's had a lot of bumps along the way. She probably doesn't even realize that she's taught me this lesson because she's never voiced it. I've just observed over the years how she's always willing and able to put the pieces back together after they fall apart. She shows me that life will always go on and it's up to me how I want that life to look.
Ask for help
Being a mother is a full time job and it encompasses every type of emotion within seconds of one another - frustration, exhaustion, deflation, joy, happiness, proud, etc. It can be exhausting and there are days when you just need a break. My mom is always helping with my boys to provide some sanity saving kid-free hours. Almost all of my extended family lives close by and my mom leaned on them for help when I was young and now I do the same. It truly does take a village to raise my boys and I'm a better mom when I have help - there's no shame in that!
Learn to do it yourself
My mom does just about everything herself. She paints her house and deck, mows the yard, reupholsters furniture, cleans the gutters, cooks, cleans the house and does it all with determination. And since she's a teacher at heart, she taught us to do the same. When I was little my mom taught us how to sew. I did not appreciate this at the time because what I really wanted was to just go to the mall and buy my summer wardrobe - I didn't want to have to make it. But now, sewing is one of the skills that I'm most thankful she taught me. She is a true example that women can do what men can do and more!
Spend your money wisely and be creative
My mom has never been "wealthy" in terms of money, but the woman knows how to save! She also doesn't make a big purchase without doing a lot of research first. And she is never too proud to pick up someone else's "garbage". Back in high school this used to really embarrass me but now I've found myself slowing down to take a second look at old chairs or desks on the curb. My mom found 2 very old couches at an estate sale, bought them for $30, reupholstered them and they look awesome! She also used refurbished desks and attached horse saddle racks underneath for the legs to make a new dining room table. She taught me that you can have nice things without having to pay a lot for them, you just have to put a little elbow grease in it and be creative.
At some point in my life, my mom became my best friend. It feels weird if a day goes by that I haven't talked or texted with her, even if it's just to check in.
And not only is she a great mom and friend to me, but she's an awesome grandma! I can see the bond between her and my boys and it melts my heart because I know she's leaving a lasting mark in their hearts. Happy Mother's Day Mom!!
The perfect Mother's Day
A perfect Mother's day would look like this....
I open my eyes to the sun peeking through the curtains and hear little voices downstairs preparing what I can only hope is a pancake breakfast. I look over at the clock and see that it's after 7am (YAY!), so I plant my two feet on the floor feeling well rested and ready for the day.
As I walk downstairs and in to the kitchen the kids have the table set with a lovely card and a cup of hot tea at my place setting. I get hugs, kisses and a plate full of hot pancakes and bacon. The boys take care of everything and I actually get to eat while the food is still HOT!
After breakfast, we go on a family bike ride and spend the morning outside planting our garden full of delicious vegetables.
My wonderful husband has a picnic lunch prepared as we sit under the huge trees in our backyard and enjoy each other's company, telling funny stories, making silly faces and laughing so hard our bellies hurt.
Maybe the afternoon will bring a nap, reading a good book or even a leisurely run. No work, no email, no fighting, no yelling, just peace and quiet.
As evening falls, I enjoy a nice, long, hot shower with no interruptions and blow dry my hair and get dressed without having to yell at the kids to be nice to one another, run down to get them a snack, or wipe their butt. I'll kiss the kids goodbye and head to my mom's house for wine and cheese on the deck. I won't have to prepare anyones' meals, cut their food, get their drinks, do the dishes, wash their faces and brush their teeth.
Now doesn't that sound delightful?
Meet my friend Amanda. I met her at the gym and have gotten to know her through some crazy workouts and chit-chatting after class. She has a great story about how she got to where she is today, so I asked her if she'd be willing to share it - I was delighted she said yes :) THANK YOU for the inspiration Amanda!! You are looking AWESOME!
Losing weight has been at the forefront of my mind for over 20 years. Yes, 20 years! I have run multiple half marathons, a full marathon, tried Weight Watchers, low carb diets, low fat diets, etc. I even tried not eating, but that lasted about 30 minutes. Will power is not my thing! Yet, my goal was never met.
What was I doing wrong? Why were these things working for my friends, but not me? How could it be that my husband could just say he wanted to lose a few pounds and within days the scale was singing him a lovely tune of victory. I couldn’t figure it out, so in frustration, I threw my hands in the air and gave up. Turns out that was a dumb ass idea, because I gained 10 more pounds and then couldn’t fit into my fat pants.
I am a wife, mom of 3, part-time teacher, grocery-getter, and pool rat. My twins are now 4, so I decided it was time to lose the baby fat, for real! The past 4 years have been crazy and exhausting, but my babies are in preschool (thank you Jesus for those bless-ed preschool teachers!) and I am only working in the morning, so I have some “me” time now.
This was my year to make a change.
The only thing standing in my way of getting help to achieve this goal was the money. Doesn’t it always come down to the money? I was determined to find a way, so I organized 3 garage sales, sold all my baby stuff (because I AM DONE WITH THAT STUFF) and asked for nothing but monthly dues for my birthday, Christmas, and anniversary gifts from anyone who asked.
With the needed funds secured, I started boot camp at MyLeanBody Boot Camp and signed up for a 2-month plan with the Diet Doc. The Diet Doc included one-on-one food mentoring and accountability, which is exactly what I needed. The program gives guidelines for macronutrients and how to spread them out throughout the day. I learned how to eat in a healthy way that ultimately gave the results I was looking for.
In the last 6 months, I have lost 25 lbs and dropped 4 pant sizes. Of course, my weight loss is MOST noticeable in the boob and butt area, but I’ll take it anyway! Now I get to go shopping for new clothes, in a size I haven’t seen since middle school!!
I am starting to realize that my health and wellbeing should be a part of the family budget as well. I want to give them the best version of me possible. I am also learning the value of loving myself and investing in me. - Amanda
Melissa Ash - mom of 2 energetic boys, wife, and business woman. Just trying to "do it all".