Summer break is right around the corner. With Lily's last day of daycare yesterday, and Carrick's last day of kindergarten was on Thursday, our family will officially kick off the school hiatus today! We are planning a family trip to Out of Africa Wildlife Park between Cottonwood and Camp Verde. We have been there many times over years past, but now, Lily is old enough to enjoy the animals along with her big brother. She knows what the animals are and what sounds they make, and I can't wait to see her feed a giraffe!
Going to Out of Africa as a family is just one of the many things on my summer "To Do" list. Officially, the list is quite short: Keep Carrick in karate (Corey's choice, not mine), visit family in Illinois, celebrate Corey's birthday, and celebrate our anniversary are the only things that have somewhat of a plan or schedule. That was my choice. After attending the Summer Bash last week, and looking over all the activities, camps and workshops for children, I decided not to participate in any of them. Partly because I didn't want to pay for them, but also because we still don't know what our family travel plans will be. I did not want to commit to something and then not be around for it.
Most of the activities like swim lessons or Lego Camp are things that Carrick can do for much cheaper just being with me. I can take him to the pool to splash around, which is what he really wants. I don't want to pay money (and keep Lily occupied while he's at lessons) for him to learn the different strokes of swimming. He knows how to swim in the deep end, and that's good enough for me. He can be a safe swimmer, which was the whole point of swim lessons in the first place. And while Lego Camp sounds fun, he literally has about 20 lbs of legos in his possession that he tinkers with for hours. I don't need to pay $90 for him to learn how to create without instructions.
I am quite aware, however that trying to be the kids' sole source for entertainment, food and rest will not be without its challenges. I remember going almost insane from being with the kids all day every day for two months during last summer's break. The good news is this year, Carrick can swim, read and ride a bike, which greatly increases the kinds of activities he can participate in while at home with me. As for Lily, she has grown up so much from last summer that the same holds true to her too. After a year in daycare, she now knows how to sit at a table and eat a meal, paint, sing songs, take directions and follow them. She is also an incredible communicator. Last year, she was in the very earliest stages of talking. Now she speaks clearly in seven word sentences, so figuring out what she needs or wants is no enigma.
Now that the kids are a little older and can do most of the same activities, I have come up with some ideas about this summer that will help us all have a smooth, happy and exciting summer.
Last year, we used a makeshift bulletin board to plan our days together. It worked for the most part. Carrick could not read, but he could recognize most of the words. He requested we use the bulletin board method again this summer. He can now read the various activities I have written out. I started with a brainstorm of everything I could possibly do (on my own) with the kids during the day. I came up with a pretty extensive list that includes (but is not limited to) hiking, playdates, library, pool, art, and movies.
I made a note card for each of the elements in my brainstorm. On the backs of some of them, I wrote more specific details. For example, on the back of the hiking note card, I wrote the names of several trails I could take the kids on by myself. They are trails that are easy enough for Lily to walk without being carried. So, the idea with these note cards is that every day after breakfast, I choose four or five cards that could be possibilities for the day. Then, I let my six-year-old read the cards and choose up to three that he (and Lily) would like to do that day. I also included cards for "Help Mommy and Daddy" and "Quiet Time". These will be staples everyday.
I also bought a star chart for Carrick at the Dollar Tree so that he can star the days when he helps out around the house. He wants to earn some new (and expensive) Legos for the summer. I wanted "helping" and "quiet time" to be a part of the note card system so that they are built into the day without fuss. I don't want to have to battle with the kids to help out or have some down time. This way, they see it on the bulleting board, and they just accept that it's part of what we do today. With this note card method, Carrick is involved with the process of choosing his day, and it's not just me dictating what we do every single day. Nor do I have to come up with things to do every day all summer long. The note cards take the guesswork out of watching the kids.
The second element to my summer planning is FOOD. HOLYCOW I dropped way too many Fun Dollars on snack items last summer. Now that Lily is eating actual food and not nursing during the day, there will only be more cash spent on food if I don't have a plan. I cannot be stopping at Wendy's for chicken nuggets or at Natural Grocers for Luna bars every day.
Here is what I came up with for my food solution. It's pretty "duh", and I don't know why I didn't think of it for last year with Carrick. Every day, after we choose what we are doing for the day and pin it up on the bulliten board, we pack lunch boxes! This will train Carrick to make his own lunch for school next year (and save me from having to make one more lunch every day for school). He will learn about portions, wrapping and packaging, and, yes, cutting safely. We will put the made-up lunches/snack packs in my tote bag, and that way, they are ready to grab whenever we leave the house. With the lunch boxes packed with snacks and the like, no matter where we go or how long we are away from home during our day, we are not spending precious Fun Dollars on food.
I made a Costco run yesterday to stock up on snackables for the kids. I put things like lentil snaps and goldfish in snack sized bags so that they are pre-portioned. Then I hid the remainder in a cabinet so the kids don't just plow through them (or spill a gallon of goldfish on the floor). I also bought things like fig bars, fruit snacks and applesauce pouches. These "dry goods" will serve as supplements to the fresh things we prepare for our lunch boxes. They are also "on hand" things if the kids are hungry and I just don't feel like preparing anything. I want to teach them to balance the packaged stuff with the fresh things. They already have a concept of this, but it will be a new experience having total access to "snacks" all day for two months. I am hoping that with my portioning everything out and hiding most of what's left we can ration out the snacks to sustain us through June and July. We'll see how that goes.....(just to fill you in, we do not do "snacks" at our house. We buy maybe one package of graham crackers or goldfish per week. We just don't keep them stocked on a regular basis. So all this choice and abundance of snacks presents a new challenge of restraint on my part, and on the kids' part.)
With a plan for activites and food in place, I feel confident as I move toward summer vacation. I know that there will be challenges and pitfalls, but I feel that with a plan to back me up, the moments of weakness will be few and far between. I just have to remember to ask Corey to watch the kids from time to time so that I can get out and have some time alone. Perhaps some extra Girls' Nights are in order. Happy hour anyone?
Lunch at India Palace for Corey and me- $22.00
Balance this pay cycle- $41.00 (saving it for a later purchase)