What To Do When You Can’t Be There

Today, I’d like to welcome my friend Jenny from Express Bus Mama to the blog! I “met” Jenny through the Ask Away Friday series, and she quickly became one of those bloggers I think of as a friend, and not just a name behind the screen. She is a fellow working mom and writes all about the ups and downs that entails. What I love most about reading her blog is the realness that comes through in her writing. It always feels more like I’m hanging out with a friend than simply reading a blog when I’m over at her place. I was so glad Jenny agreed to guest post over here today!

memories

One of the most challenging parts about being a working mother is that I often have to miss my son’s events, activities or field trips. While I don’t love this arrangement, it’s par for the course. After spending too much time feeling sorry for myself, I’ve made peace with the fact that I can’t be at every school play, baseball game or summer camp picnic. Here are some tips to help you out when work gets in the way.

  1. Have a prep session. Be open with your child and explain why you won’t be able to attend the event in question. That way they aren’t hoping you’ll be there or waiting for you to arrive. Kids are more understanding and forgiving when they are kept in the loop. Also use this time to make sure your child feels comfortable with the event in general. If your child is the solo at the school recital and your absence can’t be helped, it might be helpful to have a relative or good friend attend in your place. That extra bit of support will help calm any fears or anxiety your child may have about the event.
  2. Tag Team. Relive the activity through photos by asking a friend to take pictures of your child during the event. Have them send you the snapshots during or directly after the activity so you can feel like you’re right there with them. Offer to return the favor some time so your friend knows just how much you appreciate their assistance.
  3. Keep in the Know. It’s helpful to create a dialogue with your child’s teacher or group leader alerting them to your absence. This serves two purposes. First, the leader will be aware that your child may need an extra smile or word of encouragement during the event. Second, it gives you an opportunity to contact the teacher afterwards to see how your child did and what they enjoyed or disliked about the activity. This would be a great standard to set at the beginning of a school year or summer camp session.
  4. Recap. Now that you have photos of the event and a summary of how it went, you are prepared to have a great recap session with your child. Take a few moments when you first get home to hear what they got out of the activity and help calm any sadness they may have because you weren’t there. Mark particularly special events with a trip to the ice cream parlor or a movie night. If you missed out on a field trip, schedule a future family outing to the location. Then your child can relive the trip with you and act as your tour guide.
  5. Guilt Be Gone. As working moms we are just too hard on ourselves. There’s no shame in missing an activity because you’re busy providing for your family. In a perfect world we would be able to come and go from work as we please. Unfortunately, that’s just not an option for many of us. Instead of getting frustrated with circumstances we can’t change, it’s important to be proactive and make the most out of what our kids having going on in their lives, even when work calls us away.

Thank you for reading and a special thank you to Beth for having me today. Hopefully these tips will help you out the next time you find yourself missing something because of work. We’ve all been there!

 

 

 

Camping Recipe Round-up

Camping Recipe Round-upI am the last girl you would probably think of when you think camping. But I discovered a couple summer’s ago that I absolutely love it. Granted, I still don’t love bugs, or dirt, but I do adore the laid back calm of camping. No schedule, go with the flow, and plenty of relaxing. Count me in for a long weekend of that!

We don’t completely rough it when we go camping. We pitch a tent, but we do get a site with electrical and bathrooms that are fairly close. And one of the things I love about our annual trip with The Coach’s family is that everyone takes a meal, so you only cook once the entire weekend. We’ve enjoyed some great family lunches and dinners; you’re much more able to put some effort into your meal, since you only have to make one. 

Some of our camping family has campers with ovens, and like I mentioned before, we get sites with electrical hook-ups so we can use crockpots. Then there’s always the campfire, and sometimes grills. That offers quite a few options – certainly more than we can fit in a weekend! :) Here’s a round-up of some of my favorite camping meals – either ones we’ve enjoyed on our trips, or ones I’ve found on Pinterest!

Breakfasts

  • Casseroles. If you have a camper with an oven, it’s fairly easy to throw together a breakfast casserole and pop it in the oven.
  • Ziplock bag omelettes. Super simple. Put all your omelette ingredients in a freezer Ziplock bag – eggs, cheese, ham, onion, etc. Pack in your cooler. Thne boil a pot of water over the campfire and add your omelette bags. Boil the bags for 12-15 minutes – and viola! Omelettes!
  • Muffin tin eggsWhat? Me, making something in a muffin tin? Yep – you can even do it camping! Crack your eggs into a muffin tin, add cheese if you like, and heat until cooked over a campfire or grill. These happen to be the perfect size to put on an English Muffin and make a breakfast sandwich!
  • Campfire donutsThese aren’t the healthiest breakfast, but they are fun! Simply use canned biscuits, but a hole in the middle, and fry them in a cast iron skillet with some oil over the campfire. Drain the oil and shake them up in a brown bag with some sugar and cinnamon! 
  • Continental-style breakfast. Since we’re not usually big-breakfast eaters, it’s fine with us to do a simple breakfast of bagels, fruit, and hard-boiled eggs. All easy to pack!

Lunches

  • Sandwich bar. A sandwich bar is easy to pack and easy to please with a crowd. Gather various lunch meats, cheeses, breads, and condiments and set it all out. Add some chips and a fruit salad, and you’re done!
  • Grilled Sandwiches. For something a little fancier, you can use thicker bread and make a panini style sandwich on the grill. Just wrap in foil and grill!
  • Walking Tacos. You can pre-cook the taco meat at home, and bring all the toppings already sliced and diced and in containers. Just warm up the meat in your crockpot and set everything out!
  • Baked Potato Bar. Wrap your potatoes in foil and cook them over the campfire or on the grill. Then have a variety of toppings such as bacon, broccoli, cheese, etc. 
  • Campfire Chili Cheese FriesSuper easy – take frozen fries, add canned chili and shredded cheese, wrap up in a  foil packet, heat over a campfire or grill. Yum. 
  • Mac & CheeseCook your macaroni at home first and mix with milk and sharp cheddar cheese. Put in a large Ziplock bag and pack in your cooker. Then use smaller pot pie size aluminum tin pans to warm your mac & cheese up over the fire or on the grill. ring toppings such as extra shredded cheese, bacon, broccoli, peas, etc.
  • Hot Dogs. The classic camping meal – cooked over the campfire! You can get fancy if you like and bring a variety of toppings. 
  • Personal Pizzas. You can easily use English Muffins or pita bread for the crusts. Add your toppings, and either heat in a cast iron skillet over the fire, or on the grill.  

Dinners

  • Chicken sandwiches. This year, we’re assigned a dinner. I’m bringing my crockpot and a bag of frozen chicken breasts. I’ll cook the chicken all day, then shred it and serve it on buns with a choice of sauces – BBQ, Buffalo, ranch, etc. I’m adding a pasta salad and carrot & celery sticks. 
  • Sloppy Joes or Pulled Pork. You can pre-cook the meat at home and warm it in the crockpot. 
  • BBQ Chicken drummies. We brought this last year. We cooked the chicken drumsticks on the grill before leaving. Then warmed them up with BBQ sauce in the crockpot. 
  • Skillet Meals. Most skillet meals you can make in a cast iron skillet over the grill. Think meat, potatoes, and veggies all cooked in your skillet. Better for a single family meal, since you’re limited to what you can fit on your skillet. 
  • Foil packet mealsMany meals can be wrapped up in foil packets and grilled or cooked over a campfire. One of my favorites is to place a chicken breast with some sliced onions and peppers in a foil packet with Italian dressing on them. You could also try fish with some lime and a good corn salsa in the packet, ham with some sweet potatoes and pineapple slices, or chunks of beef with veggies and potatoes. The one I want to try later this summer is hobo dinners
  • Shishkabobs. The beauty of making kabobs is that your whole meal is on a stick. You can use chunks of chicken, steak, or sausage. You add thick chunks of veggies such as zucchini, summer squash, onion, and peppers. You can even add chunks of potato, if you cook it some before you cut it into chunks. Put everything on a  stick, and grill it.  

Dessert

  • Smores. Seriously, what else would you have when camping?? I like adding a little twist and using a Reese’s peanut butter cup in my smores. Or, to make things even easier, you can use fudge striped cookies instead of grahams and chocolate.  

 

On to my menu! This is our annual camping trip weekend with The Coach’s family. I can’t wait! Checking out a new campground, using our brand new tent, and getting some fabulous R&R! I’ll be linking up on I’m an Organizing Junkie if you’re looking for more meal planning ideas! I also often link up at Feeding Big. Or check out and follow my Yummy dinners board on Pinterest! Interested in meal planning? Check out my first post on meal planning, or my recent Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning. Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Breakfasts (we don’t plan for each day – see here for why – but these are our choices along with a fruit)

• Cereal
• Granola bars and yogurt
• Pancakes
• Cream of Wheat or oatmeal
• Toast or English Muffins
• Breakfast sliders
• Banana smoothies
• Breakfast bites 

Lunches (since we’re all home for lunch much of this summer, we’re not really planning a menu and eating leftovers or whatever we’re in the mood for!)

Dinners

• Monday  – Pork Chops, pasta salad, green beans
• Tuesday – McD’s and the park (The Coach has football in the evening!)
• Wednesday – Pizza
• Thursday – Camping
• Friday – Camping
• Saturday – Camping
• Sunday – Leaving open – we’ll see when we get back from camping!

What are you eating this week? Leave a comment and feel free to link back to your blog if you have your plan posted!

Like the recipe or feature this week? Please consider sending it to a friend, sharing it on Facebook or Twitter, or pinning it to Pinterest. Thanks so much!

Friday Favorites – Happiness

I’m stepping back and taking a bit of a blogging break for the month of July. I’ll only be participating in one Ask Away Friday this month. Instead, on Fridays, I’ll be bringing you a recap of some of my favorite and most popular posts in a  few categories from the blog. I hope you enjoy this recap!

FF Happiness

Happiness is such an elusive, mystical quality for me. I’m fascinated by the search for happiness, the study of it, and the struggles some have finding it and the ease with which others enjoy it. I’m on a constant quest for happiness in my life, and can say I have evolved quite a bit form a glass-half-empty girl, to a mostly glass-half-full girl. It doesn’t always come naturally, but I’ve found it is definitely worth the effort to be that person I want to be.

Here’s a recap of some of my favorite posts from the Happiness category of my blog:

Want to share?

Give Me A Break!

Hello, loyal readers!!

I’m going to be taking a bit of a blogging break for the month of July. But don’t worry – there will still be plenty of content over here to tide you over! My regular menu plans will still be posted each week, and I’ll be featuring some of my favorite recipes from older posts along with them. I have some fabulous friends who will be guest posting here, so you can meet some new amazing bloggers. I have a few DIY projects up my sleeve to feature. I have one Ask Away Friday scheduled, and the rest of the Fridays this month I’ll feature “Friday Favorites” – where I’ll highlight a few of my favorite posts from various categories on my blog. 

So you may not even notice I’m gone! But while I’m taking this little break, I’ll be helping The Coach with football tasks, spending time with my kiddos, camping, and basically soaking up summer. I’ll also be brainstorming blog post ideas, reviewing my regular features to see if they are still of interest, and basically revamping the blog. I’m planning to come back reenergized and ready to offer you some amazing content!!

You’ll still find me over on social media, especially Instagram. Come hang out with me there around the campfire or on the beach!!

Summer Schedules with Kids

Summer Schedules with KidsThis is my first summer to be home with my boys, and their first summer to not be going to the sitter’s for at least a few days a week. So let’s just say we’ve all been going through a bit of an adjustment period. And by adjustment period, I mean trying to not lose it with each other by the end of the day. 

I quickly realized we all needed some structure to our days if we were to survive the summer together. I didn’t want us to be scheduled into a box and stuck to specific tasks and certain times, because that’s a bit too much like school and work, and we all needed a break from that. But I didn’t want everything so loose that we wandered aimlessly and got bored easily. So I set out to find that fine line and then figure out how to all walk it. 

Here’s the ways we’re adding some structure to these days without losing the laid back feel of summer – our summer schedule…

  • Unless we have an activity planned, we sleep until we wake up. My kids have hardly ever been able to do this for most of their lives because we’ve had daycare or school or work dictate when we got up and out the door. At the end of the day, we stick to our bedtime routine for the most part, but are much more laid back about what time we get to bed. I try to gauge how tired the boys seem, and head to bed accordingly. 
  • The kids each have a clipboard with their Daily 5 on top. I was all set to create some cute little printable sheets, and my printer ran out of ink. So I went old school hand-written. They have five tasks I expect them to do each day. They are:

Summer Schedule 1 

    • Chores. They have a chore chart on the next sheet of their clipboard. Some are daily chores – like make their beds, and pick up the playroom. Others are either weekly or a couple times a week, as needed, like putting laundry away, unloading the dishwasher, bringing the trash cans up from the curb, cleaning bathrooms, and vacuuming and dusting. To clarify, my kids are 7 and 4, so cleaning the bathroom just entails my younger one cleaning the sink and counter with a cleaning wipe, and my older one wipes around the toilet with a cleaning wipe and uses the toilet scrubber to clean the bowl. 

Summer Schedule 2

    • Read. We signed up for the library’s summer reading program, so my boys get prizes for how much they read. My older one gets a prize for every three hours he reads on his own, my younger one gets a prize for every 10 books that are read to him. We aim to do at least 20 minutes a day, preferably 30 or more. What I love about my older son being a reader this summer, is he can read a book or two to my younger son and it counts for both of them. Then I can do a little one-on-one reading time with each. That usually gets us to our 30 minutes pretty easily. At the very back of their clipboards we keep a Scholastic reading list with book ideas by age and their sheets for the library program, just so we always know where they are!

    • Learn. I purposely left this one a bit vague. They have been going through a lot of different options for “learning” activities. My older son can use two websites from school – RazKids for reading and ixl for math. (Actually, my younger one uses the ixl under his brother’s login and does the preschool level!) They have a Leapster and a Mobigo handheld systems with many learning games, as well as some learning apps on our phones, Nook, and Kindle. They can play Site Word Zingo, Memory, or other games that involve some thinking. If it’s rainy or they are tired, we might choose a show on Animal Planet or PBS Kids (they LOVE Wild Krats!). We have math flashcards for my older son and alphabet flashcards for my younger one. And occasionally they pick to do some workbook pages (although not very often!).  
    • Exercise. This is by far the easiest one to meet every day! With several other boys in the neighborhood, there is constant opportunity to play backyard ball, tag, hide and seek, and whatever other made-up games boys play when they run past me with masks and swords! In addition, they sometimes go with their dad in the morning to his strength and conditioning program for the high school kids and will run around the gym or the football practice field. Days when it’s rainy are a challenge, especially if it’s not a day that Dad has workouts. Then we sometimes do some yoga inside and call it good!
    • Do something nice. We’re working on this one. Sometimes they try to give me a hug and declare it done. I’m working on teaching them the idea that they should try to do at least one thing a day that is “above and beyond” the norm that makes someone else feel good. I’ll be honest, it’s very much a work in progress!
  • Inevitably, there are times I hear, “I’m bored!” So the next sheet on their clipboard, says “Are you BORED?” Here’s the suggestions:

Summer Schedule 3 

    • Build, craft, or cook something. This alone gives them a ton of options – they can build with Legos inside, or sticks, rocks, and mud outside. We have an art area with crayons, markers, colored pencils, paper, glue, stickers, pipe cleaners, google eyes, etc. And just the other day my older son wanted to cook something, so I taught him how to make burgers and roasted asparagus (and how to dump a can of baked beans into a pot, which I’m sure will come in very handy in his college years!). 
    • Outside play. This is my version of what parents have been saying for generations – “It’s beautiful outside, go find something to do out there!”
    • Read a book. ‘Nuf said.
    • Earn some money. My boys were intrigued by this when I introduced it. I didn’t want to limit them, so I asked how they thought they could earn extra money. We talked about extra chores, finding old toys to sell, and having a lemonade stand. So far, they’ve only picked the extra chores, but we’ll see. Their favorites are walking the dog, since this is a newly earned activity they can do on their own, and getting the mail. Here’s their list of extra chore ideas:

 Summer Schedule 4

    • Do something for others. Again, we’re working on the “above and beyond” concept here. I’m trying to find a good volunteer opportunity for us this summer, so we’ll see if that helps them to understand better.  

So far, the clipboards have been great. I often have to ask them if they’ve done their Daily 5, but with the reminder they get right to it. I’ll be honest, we don’t always get to everything, everyday; but the fact that we’re trying and conscious of doing them has helped a lot. And the clipboards give us somewhere to turn when we get bored or tired of each other!

How do you fill the long days of summer with your kids? I’d love more ideas!!

All American Song

 
TTpageMegbeth 
 
 
 
 
 
We all need a little music in our lives. A good song can answer a question, soothe the soul and provide an escape. It can recall a memory in the most vivid detail and evoke the most intense feelings.
 
“Music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common.” -Sarah Dessen
 
We created Tunesday Tuesday to do just that, bring people together through music.
 
 
We will designate a theme, and hope that you will share a song that embodies said theme for you. Post the video for the song, an audio clip, the lyrics- however you want to do it. Then, write a little something about why this song captures the week’s theme and link up your post here with us! 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Visit your hosts after 9pm (EST) on Monday nights to find out what the theme is for the week!
 

Rules?

It would be awesome if you would follow your lovely hostesses (links below,) but other than that- let’s have fun with this! Know a fellow music lover who should get in on the party? Let them know about it! Want to share your groove with the world? Tweet it should you feel so inclined. Want to grab a button? Go for it. It’s really pretty and you’ll find it down below.
 

Host Follow Links:

 TunesdayTuesdayNEW
 
 
 
Tweet about Tunesday Tuesday & Grab one of our buttons:

Tweet#TunesdayTuesdayHop

Structure in an Unstructured Life

 

Structure in an Unstructured Life

 

This Week’s

 TT All American
 
  
 
 
It’s 4th of July week! Flags are waving, parades are marching, and fireworks are blazing and popping across skies! We have cookouts, parties, swimming, and lots of fun planned for the week! 
 
My song this week has a lot of memories for me. Growing up, my dad had a fair amount of evening meetings. He would come home, have dinner with us, then head back to the office. While it may not seem like a likely pick for a father-daughter song, he used to sing the chorus of this song to me when he was leaving. Somehow, it worked for us and I’ve loved it since I was a little girl. And it’s hard to find a more classic American song than this one – at least for my generation. Here’s my pick for All American Song…
 
Miss American Pie, by Don McLean
 

What’s your pick for All American Song? Tell me in the comments or link up!

 

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Favorite Pasta Salad

Better Than a Box Pasta Salad on Structure in an Unstructured LifeI’m going to be taking a bit of a blogging break for the month of July. But don’t despair – I’ll still have several posts up! Instead of a new recipe each week, I’ll be reposting some of my summer favorites that you may have missed the first time around!

I’ve been making a lot of pasta salad lately. It’s easy, delicious, and can be a great side or a perfect lunch. You can use whatever you like or have on hand, so it’s about as versatile a recipe as they come! I made it this past weekend to take to our Jimmy Buffet tailgate and it was a huge hit! Pretty much the only must haves are the pasta and the dressing – the veggies and other additions can be left out or substituted, depending on your tastes and how hearty of a side you are looking to make. 

Better Than a Box Pasta Salad

16 oz of pasta, cooked (I like rotini)

2-3 diced bell peppers -red, yellow, orange, or green (I use a mix) 

1/4 – 1/2 red onion, diced

2-3 Roma tomatoes, diced OR one container of grape tomatoes, cut in half

4 oz feta cheese and/or 4-6 oz of mozzarella cheese, cubed

4 oz mini-pepperoni or cubed salami

3/4 – 1 cup Greek vinaigrette dressing (I use Kraft), you can use more or less to taste

Mix everything in a large bowl. 

 

On to my menu! Another great week of busy summer plans. We have friends and parties and holidays, so once again, only a handful of meals to plan and I’m taking it pretty easy with those! I’ll be linking up on I’m an Organizing Junkie if you’re looking for more meal planning ideas! I also often link up at Feeding Big. Or check out and follow my Yummy dinners board on Pinterest! Interested in meal planning? Check out my first post on meal planning, or my recent Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning. Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Breakfasts (we don’t plan for each day – see here for why – but these are our choices along with a fruit)

• Cereal
• Granola bars and yogurt
• Pancakes
• Cream of Wheat or oatmeal
• Toast or English Muffins
• Breakfast sliders
• Banana smoothies
• Breakfast bites 

Lunches (since we’re all home for lunch much of this summer, we’re not really planning a menu and eating leftovers or whatever we’re in the mood for!)

Dinners

• Monday  – Burgers, baked beans, asparagus
• Tuesday – Rotisserie Chicken, roasted potatoes, green beans
• Wednesday – Family Cookout
• Thursday – Fireworks party
• Friday – 4th of July Party
• Saturday – Brats, chips, watermelon
• Sunday – Baked Spaghetti, salad, garlic bread

What are you eating this week? Leave a comment and feel free to link back to your blog if you have your plan posted!

Like the recipe or feature this week? Please consider sending it to a friend, sharing it on Facebook or Twitter, or pinning it to Pinterest. Thanks so much!

So, I’ve Been Thinking…About Lists, Books, and Blogging

While I’m waking up in Indianapolis today, most likely trying to recover from having too much fun at Jimmy Buffet, I was a busy little blogger bee and got my Ask Away Friday swapped, written and scheduled before I left! What is #AskAwayFriday? Well…

#AskAwayFriday was created by Penny from Real Housewife of Caroline County as a way to connect with other bloggers with a great Q & A session of 10 questions and 10 answers! By offering a wonderful opportunity to get to know others while allowing others to get to know you and of course there is also the added bonus of making great friends along the way which is one of the best parts of this online world! 

Now to welcome our wonderful #AskAwayFriday hosts…Tamara from Tamara Like Camera, Tiffany from Mrs. Tee Love Life Laughter, Christy from Uplifting Families, Stacey from This Momma’s Ramblings, and Amber from Bold Fit Mom.

This week I am beyond excited to be swapping with Stephanie from So, I’ve Been Thinking. Just as when someone says that phrase, “So, I’ve Been Thinking…” something momentous is bound to follow, a visit to her site is sure to provide with something epic. From her amazing cocktail recipes, to her insights about kids and sports, to her inspiring and beautifully illustrated posts that start with a one-word prompt, you can’t help finding something to connect with her place. Some of my favorite words i read were on her about page – “Life is good. And we all need more good. My hope is that you will find some good here and join in the discussions. I hope you laugh and relate and when you leave the page, I hope you feel your time has been well spent.” Go take a few and get lost in her site – it will definitely be time well spent!

Ask Away Friday Stephanie 

1. You are a football coach’s wife and you mentioned that sometimes dealing with the players parents can be tough. I have written a couple of rant-y posts (and should probably clarify that I don’t hate ALL sports parents) because this past year has been tougher than any other of the past 10 years; crazy parents and egos in three of the programs our kids played this year. Can you share either a story of “how not to act” or provide a few tips from your perspective (as the coach’s wife) of how parents should behave on the sidelines? I feel your pain! One of my favorite stories was from a friend of ours who is also a football coach. There was a parent in the stands who kept yelling about the coaching on the field. Our friend’s dad went over and sat by him and asked him if he had a boy down there on the field. The parent replied yes, and pointed out his son. Our friend’s dad replied, “I do, too. He’s the one coaching. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t yell about my son that way.” My husband is better than I am about letting that kind of stuff roll off his back. He kind of laughs it off and says, “If he could coach football, they wouldn’t have had to hire me” My biggest tip is to not be a jerk – if it isn’t supportive, don’t yell it. When a kid makes a bad play or a coach gets out-coached, they feel bad enough. Trust me, they don’t need a fan in the stands yelling at them about it. 

Both these guys belong to someone - be nice!

Both these guys belong to someone – be nice!

2. You mention that making lists is very important to you. I’ve read your meal planning posts and think, “Man, I will never be that organized.” I think I would like to be but I’m not sure I’d even know how to start. So, how did you start? Have you always been a list-maker? Do you make a new one every day or do you have a long-running list? I have always been a list maker! I was the kid who LOVED to get a new planner every school year! When I was in college, I had a friend introduce me to Franklin Planners and I was in love. Over the years, I’ve changed planners based on the needs of my life. Right now, I’m off for the summer so life is a little less demanding and I’m not logging as much desk time. So my usual planner has sat a bit unused since I’m not at my desk much. Instead, I’ve had a notebook with a to-do list, sort of divided up by areas. Basically, whenever it starts to look cluttered because I’ve crossed off and added things, I tear it off and transfer the things that still need to be done to a new list.   

3. Your blog reflects your structure – how do you plan for your blog? Do you have posts written well in advance or do you write the night before? A little of both, usually. I plan out the next month one to two weeks before it starts. I recently started using Coschedule and LOVE it! I can look at the month and plug in my posts so easily! Then I aim to have my posts written at least a week ahead of time, but it doesn’t always happen that way! I’ve recently wanted to try batch tasking; for example, maybe I would write all my weekly meal plan/recipe posts for the month at one time, since they are similar. I see the efficiency in grouping similar tasks together, so I’ve been wanting to try it! 

CoSchedule Calendar 2

LOVE my CoSchedule calendar!!

4. I have a good friend who blogs and another just started. I’ve also met many bloggers in person which changes your perspective on blogging and is very uplifting and affirming to have people understand what you are working through, why, and the pressure of doing something that is supposed to be fun but can also have deadlines, commitments, etc. Who have you met person to person who is also a blogger or do you have a close blogger/blogging friend who you connected with through your blogs? How has that relationship helped you as a blogger? I’ve met a few bloggers through a regional meet-up, but never really was able to make the meet-ups enough to really connect with them. I have made some truly great friendships through a blogging Facebook group I joined and through Ask Away Friday. I think those relationships help me to stay motivated to blog. Whether it is the friend who understands the challenge of trying to work and blog, or the one who gets being clueless about some of the lingo, or just someone who seems to be able to offer the perfect thing to say at the perfect time, those are the friendships that help keep me at this during the times I want to give up. Although I wish many times that I lived on the East Coast since some of the best bloggers seem to be out there! :) 

5. You host a weekly music link-up and every week the theme is different. Choose 5 or more songs for this theme: Family summer road trip.

This was fun – I asked my kids and hubby as well! Here’s what we came up with:

6. If money were no object where would that road trip bring you and what would you do there? I would love to take the kids on a trip similar to my husband and my honeymoon. We drove out to The Poconos and went to a NASCAR race, played at a waterpark, and drove into New York City for a day. I’d also love to drive a little south to Boston then and take in a Red Sox game and tour the city. 

7. You write very openly on your blog about anxiety and your personal experience – have you ever posted something you’ve regretted or changed (or wanted to change) afterward? Have you ever worried about sharing too much? I don’t think I’ve ever regretted anything, but there have been times I was really nervous to hit publish. It’s funny though, because usually the posts I worry the most about publishing because I think they are too personal, are the ones that I usually get a comment or an email or a word in passing from someone who says it really resonated with them. I’ve had people tell me that they really needed to read those words that day, or that they cried because they knew that feeling but thought no one else did. I think it is that feedback that keeps me trying to write honestly about challenges and struggles. 

8.  You find yourself with a day all to yourself. You can’t and don’t need to do anything for anyone. How do you spend your day? Ah, that sounds amazing – can you make it really happen?? ;) I think in the morning I would head out and get a fancy coffee and deliciously rich breakfast sweet. Then I’d get a mani and pedi. Then head home and spend the rest of the day reading. Maybe finish it off with a glass of wine and a bubble bath. 

IMG_6068

Currently reading – Hunger Games Series!

 

9. One of your ways to relax is to read. Are you an avid reader? What is your favorite genre and what is your favorite book (or top 3)? I used to read much more than I do now, and truth be told it is one of the things I miss most about my pre-kids days. But as my kids are reaching the age where they will go play outside together for an hour or more, I’m starting to get some of that reading time back. I like a wide variety of books – chick lit, young adult novels are a recent fave, suspense and drama like John Grisham or Lisa Gardner. My favorite classic is The Great Gatsby – it might be one of the few books I have read more than once. A recent favorite is the Time Traveler’s Wife – such rich characters and an imaginary plot that seemed so real. I also loved all the Harry Potter books and am waiting (not so patiently) for my boys to be old enough to read them aloud together. What’s tiding me over is reading the Guardians series by William Joyce, which are just as magical and so well written. 

10. Your boys are young, yet I’ll bet you can see their personalities developing and almost catch glimpses of how they may be as adults. What do you see in them today that you hope they hold onto as they grow and mature? What an awesome question! I loved thinking about this one! My older son has so much curiosity, coupled with determination. He will stick with something until he figures it out, whether it is how something works or a way to get what he wants! He’s recently started developing amazing focus, as well. I’ve seen it through sports where he works intently on whatever sport he is playing at the time. My younger son is so charismatic! He can charm any one at any time – which has gotten him out of trouble more times than I would like! He turns on that smile, and gives hugs or says something sweet and people just can’t help but love him. What warms my heart is that he does it out of a genuine love for making people happy. He seems as happy as they do at making someone smile or laugh.

These boys - love.

These boys – love.

Avoiding the Summer Slide

Avoiding The Summer Slide

Summer is under way and my kids can barely remember the structured times of school already! However, I am worried the great strides they both made in school this year will be lost. My older son went up SEVEN levels in reading this past year. I was so proud I could have burst! And my younger son made all those amazing preschool gains with letter recognition, sounds, and writing, as well as beginning to recognize some sight words and sound out some simple words. I’ve been so excited at the progress both of them have made. 

Last summer, I wrote a post about what we were doing to avoid the summer slide – that slow slide backwards in skills when they are not used each day like they are during the school year. We’ll be doing many of those same things this summer, but as my boys get older, I need to pull some new tricks out of my bag, as well! So once again, I’ve turned to my amazing group of blogging friends to offer some fabulous tips and ideas to all of us on…

Avoiding The Summer Slide

Yours truly at Structure in an Unstructured Life

We’ll be doing many of the same activities we did last year, like reading, journaling, and taking advantage of non-traditional learning opportunities, with a few new additions. Since I’m home with the kiddos this summer, we have a bit more of a schedule to our days. I made clipboards for each of the boys with our “Daily 5″ listed. The five things they need to do each day are chores, read, learn, exercise, and do something nice.

clipboards

We’re hitting the daily reading hard. Our library has a great summer reading program that rewards my older son for minutes spent reading independently and my younger son for books read together. This actually works out nicely because I can have my older son read books to my younger son and it counts for both of them. Also on their clipboards are sheets of ideas for when they get “BORED,” that includes reading and learning-related activities like building, crafting, and cooking. 

For their daily “learn” on their list, they have options. Our school district has two great subscriptions we can use over the summer. One is the Raz Kids site, which offers books at my older son’s reading level. He can read them on his own or choose to have them read to him. Then he can also take comprehension quizzes on them. He earns points for his activities on there and use his points to “buy” parts of a robot he can make on the site. He also has access to a math site – ixl.com. He can choose a grade level and skill and work on math facts and problems. He earns little badges for his work on that site. My younger son uses the preschool section of ixl under my older son’s log in (shhhh!) and then uses a couple site word apps on my Nook when his older brother is doing Raz Kids. My kids also can use their Leapster and Mobigo systems to play learning games, or watch shows on Animal Planet, or play games. 

Melissa at Home on Deranged

Although our girls are not in school yet, they are preschoolers and are definitely learning every single day. For us, avoiding the summer slide means engaging in even more outdoor play than we normally might. For example:

We take time to explain grass and plants and how they grow, just like people do. We show them plants at the beginning of the week, then go observe them again at the end of the week, noticing changes in color, size and if there are any visible signs of sickness.

In addition, we spend time digging in the dirt to look for bugs. Now, bugs are a hot topic for preschoolers, and the more we can explain them, the better. We’ve discussed june bugs, doodle bugs, worms, ants, spiders and even the pesky flying insects. We try to convey that all of these creatures have a place in the circle of life. There’s even astronomy. Our girls love looking at the moon and stars, so we’ve spent some late hours looking at the sky. It’s been an interesting experiment on our part to convey how the moon looks different every day, and that even though it seems to have disappeared, it will come back, looking just as it always has.

And we’ve even discussed chemistry, as they watch their dad put chemicals in the swimming pool. This allows us time to teach them that chemicals do have a place in our lives, but we must be careful how they are handled and not to misuse them for anything inappropriate.
 
Of course, we continue to work on reading skills with nightly story time before bed, where we encourage their imagination and playfulness. 

 

Jenny at Express Bus Mama I encourage lots of reading to help keep my son on track during the summer. We join the summer reading program at the library. They award prizes for his accomplishments and that does wonders to keep him going. When he’s reading something that has a movie, we have a themed movie night to celebrate finishing the book. I also enjoy reading some of his favorites alongside him. Then we swap books and share about what we read. The key to keeping him engaged is to make reading fun and a little different than what he’s used to in school. That way he doesn’t even realize that I’m working hard to prep him for the next school year!

Dean at Mrs. AOK

 

School's Out, Learning's In

There are many opportunities to teach our children daily, this certainly does NOT have to stop once school’s out.  Actually, keeping the learning going can be a bonding experience.  Make it a game, count red cars vs. blue cars while out and about, take time to write a story together, have a set reading-time​ as a family, or even use online resources to learn something new together.  

The library is YOUR best friend! Take visits weekly and enroll in the fun FREE activities your library may have available. Grab a map or globe and pick a country to learn about, find books at the library to learn more about the chosen country, and to go one step further…make a native dish from that country as a family.   

Shelly at DIY Mama

My daughter is only 8 months, so I don’t have any activities to keep her learning for school over the summer but I am able to do some new learning activities with her now that the weather is nicer. I’m doing a lot of sensory activities with her and making sure she’s visiting with a lot of different people so she can get used to socializing and not being attached. I bought a kiddie pool that we play in a few times/week and I throw in cups for pouring, rings to rattle and water books. We’re also having her crawl on different surfaces like the grass, deck and patio rug. There are a ton of festivals and park concerts in our town which helps her be introduced to music, crowds, loud noises (although we stay away from the stage and speakers) and lots of facial expressions! We’ll be going to the zoo and a baseball game pretty soon! 

Lanaya at Raising Reagan

Reagan loves preschool! I see the sparkle in her eyes when she learns something new and can’t wait to tell us about it when we pick her up. Right now she is really into spelling and writing her own name so we practice all the time! She has magnetic letters on the refrigerator and we spell new words every day, especially making sure she finds the right letter and knows it’s placement. Fortunately with having Father’s Day recently, and also having four grandfathers, she was able to write her name in the cards!

We love watching her joy when she figures something out! Of course, she thinks she knows everything and she and I were getting on each other’s nerves the other day. She said, “Mom, I know everything.”

“No, you don’t Reagan. There is a lot you are still learning.”

“Nope, I know it all.”

“Oh yeah, spell CAT.” Ha! That was going to do it.

“C . A . T .” My mouth dropped open and I was stunned. I guess she told me!

NJ at A Cookie Before Dinner

Because Massachusetts school calendar structure, our summer is pretty short. Malone is out of school for just about nine weeks. He is starting Kindergarten in the fall, and we’re waiting to hear if he’s gotten a space in a fairly rigorous dual language program within our public school system (he was in a pilot program for preschool). This summer, we’re going to spend as much time as we can maintaining the knowledge he’s already gotten in a really casual and fun way. My goal is to keep it so casual that he doesn’t even realize that he’s learning. This morning we drew letters outside with sidewalk chalk, counted to 30 in Spanish while tossing a football to each other, and greeted our neighbors in Spanish as they walked by. We also will read a ton of books and take a few day trips.

His favorite game to play right now is tell me everything you know. It is really simple and a great way to prompt a preschooler to recite facts they know about an object. This morning I asked Malone to tell me everything he knew about bubbles while we blew them. He came up with the following facts and observations about them: they float, they are made out of soap and air, they can be something fun to play with or make you clean, and if you look closely at them you can see a rainbow in them. It didn’t take more than a couple minutes and a simple prompt like that kept his brain working!

Jodi at The Noise of Boys

We are so fortunate! Our local library has a wonderful Summer Reading Program- and even include the younger children! Each week there is a learning or educational activity- like visitors from Iowa State’s Entomology department (featuring a traveling Insect Zoo exhibit), a Puppeteer and a Show and Tell demo from our area Zoo. In addition, to these FREE sessions, kids earn incentives along the way for pledging to read (and completing) a various number of books! This has been wonderful for my children and also myself! My children are excited to visit the library (and participate) and I have an opportunity to get to know other parents in my community. 

Tiffany at Mrs. Tee Love Life Laughter

Let me just start off by saying that it took me a few years to find a way to sneak learning into my Kids summer. I used to try to have an hour set aside each day for lessons, crafts, etc. but my Kids were not having it. The whining and complaining about school being over and simply wanting to have ‘fun’ would happen almost immediately and my resolve would dissolve after less than a month. So that’s when I had to learn how to sneak learning into summer. That’s when I realized the direct approach may not always be the best approach. After struggling to keep my oldest (now 21, 17 and 15) learning throughout the summer I took a different approach when my oldest of the youngest (LOL – I swear it makes sense… she’s the oldest of my 3 younger kids 7, 5 and 3).

3 Ways To Sneak Learning Into Summer …

Summer-3Ways

 

1. Plays, Shows & More!

My Kiddies regularly put on their own productions: plays, shows & more! I encourage them to write out their own stories (creative writing), make posters or flyers (art) and pick their own music (Umm…yeah – music). They are each learning a bit from 3 different subjects all covered in school PLUS they are learning how to work together and organize.

4 Ways To Sneak Learning Into Summer

Our 1st play was today and my Kiddies even made tickets!

2. Library Fun!

Yes, I know – the library screams out learning. Yet there are easy ways to have library fun. I have been taking my Kiddies to the library for as long as I can remember. Every time we moved our library cards were our first step to fitting in to our new city (or state). So when the summer starts we sign up for as many library programs as possible including the Summer Reading Challenges.

4 Ways To Sneak Learning Into Summer

My Kiddies are so busy trying to ‘out read’ each other they barely notice they are learning!

3. Go Explore!

It’s Summer! Take advantage of the warm weather, sunny days and nature all around you. Go explore and challenge your Kiddies to find things. Do a scavenger or treasure hunt and have them look for things like distinct leaves, flowers, rocks or (wwwww) bugs. They will have a blast and think they are having nothing more than outside fun. When you get home help them look up their finds on the internet and sneak in learning a bit more :)

4 Ways To Sneak Learning Into Summer

Getting outside to explore the world around them is one of the best ways to sneak a bit of learning into your summer!

How do you keep a bit of learning in your kids summer?

   

All Stars and No Surrender – Sports Songs

 
TTpageMegbeth 
 
 
 
 
 
We all need a little music in our lives. A good song can answer a question, soothe the soul and provide an escape. It can recall a memory in the most vivid detail and evoke the most intense feelings.
 
“Music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common.” -Sarah Dessen
 
We created Tunesday Tuesday to do just that, bring people together through music.
 
 
We will designate a theme, and hope that you will share a song that embodies said theme for you. Post the video for the song, an audio clip, the lyrics- however you want to do it. Then, write a little something about why this song captures the week’s theme and link up your post here with us! 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Visit your hosts after 9pm (EST) on Monday nights to find out what the theme is for the week!
 

Rules?

It would be awesome if you would follow your lovely hostesses (links below,) but other than that- let’s have fun with this! Know a fellow music lover who should get in on the party? Let them know about it! Want to share your groove with the world? Tweet it should you feel so inclined. Want to grab a button? Go for it. It’s really pretty and you’ll find it down below.
 

Host Follow Links:

 TunesdayTuesdayNEW
 
 
 
Tweet about Tunesday Tuesday & Grab one of our buttons:

Tweet#TunesdayTuesdayHop

Structure in an Unstructured Life

 

Structure in an Unstructured Life

 

This Week’s

 TT Sports
 
  
**Don’t forget to link up your post below & visit some participants to see what they’re jamming out to!**
 
Can’t stick around for this week’s party?? 

Next week’s theme will be…

All American Song

 
 
Sports are a big part of our lives in my family, as my regular readers know. And since we also listen to quite a bit of music, it seems like an easy combo. However, I had to think quite a bit on this one and honestly, feel like my picks aren’t that original. Maybe because sports is one of the few things that doesn’t seem to have a running soundtrack in the background. Anyway, here’s my sports song picks…
 
All Star, by Smash Mouth
This is kind of the classic sports song. My kids love it, it fits well with the All-Star sports games theme. And it’s just fun!
 

 
The Man, by Aloe Blacc
This is actually my ring tone for my husband right now! When he played this song for me, I knew he needed to use it for his football program somehow this year. We got to the line about “No surrender, and I won’t retreat” and I was convinced he had to do something with this song. His signature defense is what he calls the Black Flag. If you know anything about history, you know they used to flags to communicate. A white flag, obviously meant you surrendered and were willing to accept whatever consequences were incurred.  A black flag, however, meant – you got it – no surrender, no retreat. Just like his defense on the field. He’s the man. :) 
 

What’s your sports song? Tell me in the comments or link up your post below!

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