Wednesday, June 29, 2016

5 Things I'm Loving Right Now

{This post contains Amazon affiliate links and a bunch of other links, too!  All opinions are my own.}

1) Binge-watching The Great British Baking Show in the afternoon with my kids while Macie naps.  I think we watched the entire 10-episode series in three afternoons!  (It leaves Amazon Video tomorrow so we were in a bit of a hurry.) 

2) Target t-shirts.  Last summer I was pregnant, and the summer before that I weighed less and wasn't nursing a baby.  My clothing needs are unique this year so when I found a basic t-shirt that felt good and didn't stretch out of shape even after my baby pulled and tugged on it all day, I bought ten of them.  Yes, ten.

3) Free online learning sources.  I plan for Ben and Alaine to take "art lessons" next school year with The Art Club Online (specifically Lessons 1-10).  In the meantime, this summer, all the kids have been drawing with Art for Kids Hub. I'm also interested in exploring two sites my sister-in-law told me about last week: A. Pintura: Art Detective (a mystery game about fine art) and  Classics for Kids (with games, worksheets, audio, and more about composers).

4) Summer meals. When I planned meals for the summer, my goals were to avoid the oven and to eat dairy-free.  Despite the repetition, we love what we're eating this summer.  I'm spending less time in the kitchen and, ironically, the simplest meals are getting the biggest compliments from my family.

5) Thinkbaby sunscreen. The words sunblock and sunscreen are often used interchangeably, but this is technically a sunblock because the only active ingredient is zinc oxide  It earned a 1 (out of 10) on EWG's Sunscreen Guide.  I hate the smell of sunscreen, but this one has a pleasant fruity smell-- not at all offensive.  The price is reasonable, too!  And of course, most importantly, it kept Macie's skin from coloring when we spent an afternoon at the beach last week.  (If you are looking for a drugstore sunscreen that won't break the bank, Banana Boat Sport Performance Lotion  is not a bad choice.  It earned a 4 on EWG's Sunscreen Guide-- not ideal, but not awful.) 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer Readers...and books you may enjoy

We did it.  After years of avoiding our library's summer reading program, we eagerly signed up for it this year!  

Four years ago we did our own  summer reading program at home with low stress and great success , but this is the year to go with our library's program.  Here's why:

1) The kids are old enough to do their own record keeping.  No more of my scrawling a list of books on a wrinkled reading log (x5) on our way out the door to the library. Nope. Everyone is responsible for their own. 

2) Our library's reading program this year requires the kids to keep track of how long they read, not how many books they read.  I love that this encourages my kids to read books based on interest, not length.

3) One of my kids resists reading for pleasure, but a little outside incentive is motivation for him to read without prompting.

4) Ben (7) and Alaine (5) don't remember ever participating in a summer reading program.  It's a new, easy, and cheap thrill.  

5) I've been reading scads of picture books with Alaine and Macie (and whoever else wants to peek over my shoulder).  I shared my favorites herehereherehere and here.  We might as well get credit for all that reading! 


A few summers ago, I published a free eBook with ideas of books to read aloud to your kids over the summer.  These are also great choices for independent reads.  (I have one kids who reads voraciously and a list like this helps me keep good literature in his hands.)

Click here to get your copy of  the Summer Reading Guide For Families.

One last thing: if you enjoy my book recommendations...or if you don't...can you take just 1 minute to answer these 2 questions so I can better suit your needs on my blog and on my Facebook page?

Click here to answer the survey.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How YouTube Is Transforming Our Mornings

Let me start by saying I'm almost too embarrassed to post this.  It doesn't feel right to admit that we start our day in front of a screen.  But let me back up and tell you about our summer mornings.  

I might sit on my bed nursing Macie while the kids get up.  The boys tend to wake first and they eat breakfast and sometimes watch Wild Kratts on TV.  Then the girls get up and join the boys.  If I'm still in my room, the kids start playing Legos until I remind them to get dressed and do their chores before they have free time.  An hour later we realize Alaine never ate breakfast and no one emptied the dishwasher.  A few kids argue about who gets to play magnetic darts first and I spend the hours nagging about what's not getting done instead of investing in quality time with my kids! The morning slips away before I've had a shower, and when I peek into the bedrooms around lunchtime, I notice an unmade bed. 

Maybe the answer is to make a morning schedule and to require more responsibility and accountability, but we're choosing another way.

Now as soon as the kids come out of their rooms in the morning, Owen holds Macie while I make my bed.  Then we all congregate in the living room.  Macie nurses or plays on the floor while the rest of us watch Good Mythical Morning together. Good Mythical Morning is a clean, talkshow-esque YouTube channel that puts out a funny 10-15 minute video every morning.  (Their ninth season is ending on Friday, but there are scads of old shows we can catch up on.  Season 10 begins August 1.) 

Once our non-morning people have laughed themselves awake, we watch Five Minute Family Devotional. Five Minute Family Devotional, another YouTube channel, reviews men and women from the Bible chronologically.  It ends with 1-2 discussion questions and a suggested prayer topic. The channel releases several episodes per week.  So far there are eleven of a total twenty-five.  (The channel is a division of JellyTelly, which is part of  What's in the Bible? {affiliate link}, a brand we love!)

All told, our viewing lasts less than a half hour, but it centers us and puts us all in one place to begin the day. I'm available to make sure everyone has eaten and begun their morning routine and chores, and it  makes it easy to move on studying the body on Mondays or read books with Alaine on the other days.  (I'm sharing some of our favorite picture book on the blog's Facebook page a few times a week.)

Best of all, it gives me an opportunity to laugh and share with all my kids...and make a few memories, too!
(Click here for other posts in this series.)

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Sorta Lazy Days of Summer

{This post contains Amazon affiliate links.}

Every year I go into summer thinking that this is the year we will have loads of free time and endless quiet afternoons at home...and then life happens.  Of course, we wouldn't have it any other way.  While I do enjoy days with nothing on the calendar, I appreciate them so much more when they are sandwiched between busier days, days when we visit our friends or go out for ice cream or drive to the beach.

On our first week off from school in May, we had five separate events in the span of three days! While we hope not to keep up that pace, the days and weeks are slowly filling with both in-home and away plans.

  • Brian and two of the boys are going to a baseball game with my dad.  Maddie and I (without the baby!) are attending a local theater production of Mary Poppins.  Several of us are attending my sister's choir recital...

  • We're going to the beach (even though I'm still sand-phobic).  We're borrowing a beach umbrella and using a bit of this sunblock.  It has zinc oxide, the only active sunblock ingredient approved by the FDA for babies younger than 6 months, and probably a safer choice for everyone!

  • I'm slipping school planning into the cracks.  Can I say that I am only mildly less intimidated by high school than I was a few months ago?  But I made some choices and I made an Amazon order yesterday!

  • We're getting our health credit out of the way.  We're using My Body by Patty Carratello. Alaine (5) and Ben (7) are the students and Owen (9) and Maddie (11) are acting as the teachers.  We have a large cut-out body taped to a door in our house whom they've named  Bobby the Body. Our "students" color and add an organ or two every Monday!  The "teachers" read the text to them while they work. They've also put together a floor-size body puzzle.  

  • We're doing other puzzles, too, which means we are eating meals around the kitchen counter or in the living room or even on the floor. Everyone loves the novelty of it.

  • Some of the kids are taking care of plants.  Maddie has daffodils.  Gavin has sunflowers and Alaine has zinnias.  Ben has wild strawberries and basil. Owen has my "black thumb."

  • Ben has taken off with independent reading.  He started with the Young Cam Jansen series by David Adler at the end of the school year, then progressed to the regular Cam Jansen book series.  When he started going through two in a day and ran out of library books well before "library day," he scoured our home shelves and started the Ramona series.  He is beginning the fourth book today.

  • I'm trying to be intentional to read with Alaine on the mornings when we're home.  She sometimes falls between the cracks of big kids and baby, but she loves our one-on-one time. We've enjoyed the Library Mouse series this week. We're also making our way through the Mrs. Noodlekugel series.  We're getting lots of inspiration from this list of 100 picture books to read this summer.  I plan to share some of our favorite on the blog's Facebook page.

  • Our yard is big and Brian cuts it using his equipment from work.  He is teaching Gavin to do some of the trimming with a push mower, though, or to touch it up on weeks when the grass is growing out of control. Owen is begging to learn, too!

  • We're playing host to a Sunday school party, a weekday brunch, and various visiting friends.

  • We're taking an hour on random weekend evening when everyone is home to play a family game. Our current favorites are Big Picture Apples to Apples and Wits and Wagers Family Edition.

  • And who are we kidding?  We're watching TV.  We are new to Amazon Prime and we've spent probably too much time exploring what's available for free on Prime Video.  

What are your summer plans? 

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