Set Your Summer Intentions

As excited as I was for Cavanaugh to get out of school for summer, I was also a little worried that we could spend months inside hiding out from Texas, USA, heat and mosquitoes while playing LEGOs and Minecraft. We even had got a generator from Top 10 Best Generators For Camping (Reviews) – GeneratorGrid after my husband had heard about them from a colleague and how he found it quite useful. We needed a to-do list of fun.

Luckily, one of my organizing clients was working on a summer intentions banner created by fellow Austinites Bernadette Noll and Kathie Sever. I was inspired by the banner but worried about the execution. Sewing and stamps, required by the original design, would have meant we completed ours sometime after school started this fall. 

What I loved was the idea of setting up our summer is to lay down and ดูหนังออนไลน์, so we could get the most of the time with each other while  without going stir crazy or bickering because our days were so unstructured (though exactly what we wished for all school year long).

So we set summer intentions and planned great adventures without locking ourselves into a schedule or spending a ton of money. Because, Getting ready for summer – and how to be prepared it’s very important if you have kids to entertain. Here’s what we did:

First, we brainstormed lists of people to see. We thought of friends from school and outside of school, plus family members and the characters from Rick Riordan’s The Kane Chronicles series we were listening to on audiobook.

For places to go and things to do, we added some of our favorites from previous summers, like going to california summer camp, see the symphony in the park and baking, but we were picking from what’s already routine and that would not keep us going through August. So we read through two of my favorite books: 101 Things You Gotta Do Before You’re 12! and 101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12! Cavanaugh put stickers by all the things he was interested in, then we went through the pages together to figure out which of those things we could do during this summer. They included items like seeing a meteor shower and eating a flower.

Then to see if some of the items he’d found were even available in Austin, Texas, we went to Free Fun in Austin.com and added to our list with going to a ghost town and a junk cathedral. On Facebook, a friend had posted the “50 Ideas for a Slow Summer” list from Awesomely Awake.com. They helped too! So did the email from Cavanaugh’s school librarian and the one from his kindergarten teacher with summer reading clubs at some local bookstores and the library and with different learning activities and websites.

Once we had all of our lists, we went to Hobby Lobby and used their handy iPhone app to get the ever-present 40% off a full-price item coupon to get a copper foam board. Copper is Cavanaugh’s favorite metal right now. It meant no sewing fabric for putting your art on foam boards, and the foam board will travel well so when we go visit family in New Mexico, USA, we can take our lists with us. We also used Cavanaugh’s favorite font, “Wonton,” which I downloaded for free from dafont.com for his ninja birthday party last year.

We wanted to keep our lists out where Cavanaugh and I could read them when we needed ideas. As we see people, go places and do things, we are putting checks or dots next to the items on our list. On the calendar, I listed only events that were date specific, like Mr. Popper’s Penguins being shown for $1 at the theater down the street.

We have a Summer Fun Board in our living room and enough ideas on it to have more adventures than we have time for. I’m also trying to find some entertainment near me just to have an extra option this summer. I’ll end this post with some items from our list:

Things to Do:

  • Make a Bast board game: The Path of Bast
  • Do experiments in DNA Kit
  • Explore backyard habitat #35
  • Build volcano
  • Host book club with school friends
  • Play marbles
  • Build a fairy home in the garden
  • Reading Clubs: Book People, B&N, Library
  • Replace front doorknob and lock
  • Eat a flower
  • Watch a meteor shower
  • Bake
  • Play cards
  • Build robots
  • Do puzzles
  • Make YouTube videos
  • Finish LEGO Ninjago Village
  • Play board games
  • Reading time in bedroom
  • Make up a spy name
  • Practice handwriting
  • Do 2nd grade Word Wall Words
  • Go through photos
  • Play learning games 

 Places to Go

  • High Tea
  • Taos
  • Splash Pad
  • Camping/Sleep under the stars
  • Movies
  • Picnic
  • A famous road: Route 66
  • Junk Cathedral
  • An Artist’s Studio
  • Swimming Hole
  • Rock Art Site
  • Radical Rock Formation
  • A canyon or gorge
  • Ice cream factory tour

What are you up to this summer?

Make a “Play” List with Your Kids

My son is seven and a half, attending public school, and  just getting everything done in a day is a challenge. He is exhausted from being around kids all day and I have client emails to send and dishes that need washing. From the alarm in the morning until bedtime, we are negotiating transitions, trying to get things done, and we don’t always have the same wants or needs at the same time. It’s easy to lose connection with each other in the midst of that.

So, I was very interested to hear Brené Brown talking about play in The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion, and Connection. She referenced Stuart Brown, a play researcher, and gave his simple definition of play.

  1. Time spent without purpose
  2. You lose sense of self and don’t feel inhibited or self-conscious
  3. You lose track of time

Play is a great place to connect with our kids (and ourselves), when it’s really play for both of us like when we use our roller skates with our parents back in time. It helps foster the attachment that we build with them as babies, and that can get strained when we’re spending so much time apart or needing to get things done when we’re together.

But there’s a catch. The activity has to feel like play for all the parties if the goal is to play together. Play for my son may include endless LEGO battles, but that feels like work to me. It meets none of the criteria of play.

  • 1) The purpose is to hang out with my child.
  • 2) I feel self-conscious because I don’t really know how or why to have battles.
  • 3) I’m very aware of how much time I’ve spent doing it.

What do you do when play for one of you is miserable, or not fun, for another? Figure out what you both like to play. Brené  Brown sat down with her family and they made a list of what fit the definition of play was for each of them. Check out this list of 50 Fun Indoor Games for Kids from Twin Cities Kids Club! Many activities, like Candyland, did not overlap. But the ones that did went into her Venn Diagram (yes, she made fun of herself for making a Venn Diagram of play, and yes, I totally loved the idea). The overlaps in their diagram helped Brown’s family determine what they’d spend time doing on the weekends, what kinds of vacations they took, or what they’d do together for fun.

The importance of playI loved the idea so much that we made up our own play lists and checked for overlap at our house. Both my son and I love to make up songs and rhymes, lie in the hammock and read a book together, jump at Jumpoline under the disco lights, play some board games (but not others), and many more. We also made a list for things that can feel like play for awhile, but that one or the other of us gets tired of  sooner, and we put those activities on our limited play list. We can do them together, with a time limit, so the other person isn’t having to work to stay interested.

The list has been really helpful. We’re playing UNO more often, have remembered how much we like to play in the water, and the list is a go-to resource when we’re needing extra connection because we’ve been busy or one of us is having a hard day. The conversations we have during or after play are more connective too.

For more ideas about how to integrate play into your parenting, I highly recommend Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. And for the research behind play, Stuart Brown’s book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul is a fascinating read.

Salad for Kids

Last week, my friend said she doesn’t think my son is a vegetarian; he’s a carbivore. He prefers mac-n-cheese, pizza, quesadillas, and penne–either plain and cold or with butter and sometimes parmesan. (To be fair, he also likes tostadas with tomato and avocado, steamed broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, and will eat all sorts of fruit).

Still it felt like a bit of a miracle when he ate salad last week. He used to eat it but age four brought a level of selective (a.k.a. picky) eating we had never seen the likes of. In keeping with the principle to Feed with Love and Respect, I don’t want to force my child to eat, use sweets as a reward for healthy food, or make him sit at the table until he’s cleaned his plate–all practices I experienced as a child. I do want him to try new things, to have the power to decide what he likes and make his own choices. So, I have instituted a “two bite policy” at our house. The reason for two bites is that he gags on the first bite, possibly before his taste buds have even registered the food, maybe before the food has actually touched his tongue. So the second bite is the actual tasting.

We have had some success. Cucumber sticks were a Yes. Cold cucumber soup, however, was a definite No. Considering many adults I know (myself sometimes included) aren’t fans of a cold soup, his rejection of the soup was fine. But I decided to try an experiment to get salad back on the menu. I took all of the vegetables he happily eats raw and separately and combined them into a salad.

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Grape tomatoes, quartered
  • Diced avocado
  • Cucumber, peeled and diced
  • Grated carrot

Served in a ramekin with no dressing and with some encouragement from me, my son ate every bite!

One of the parenting tools that I use whether I’m choosing to or not is modeling. This is true with food, how to talk to people, taking care of myself, sharing, manners, expressing feelings, everything. So, one of the ways I’m encouraging healthy eating in him is healthy eating for me. I try not to have food in the house that I wouldn’t want him to eat. If we decide to have ice cream, we go someplace to order a scoop so that there’s not a whole carton in the freezer–which turns dessert from a treat into a power struggle.

“Mama, can I have some ice cream?”

“For breakfast? No.”

This summer, I’m making a conscious effort to eat more salad myself. I would bet that his seeing it on my plate went as far as (if not further than) our two bite policy. To make salads more appealing to me, I’ve been experimenting with new combinations or with recreating favorites from restaurants I love. I used all of the ingredients mentioned above, some green onion, and instead of my avocado in chunks, I made an avocado yogurt dressing a la Mr. Natural. They have not shared their recipe with me so I guessed. I got out my handy dandy mini food processor and combined

  • 1/4 cup plain fat free yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 avocado
  • salt to taste

It was delicious, if a little thick. One might add some milk to thin the dressing.

After I took the picture and tasted the salad (all gooey from super-thick dressing), I realized some crunch would be nice and added Tamari pumpkin seeds. Sunflower seeds also would have been delicious. So Cavanaugh and I both ate our vegetables.

What do you like in salad? How about your kids?

A Look at Your Discipline Style

I lead a meeting for the S. Austin Attachment Parenting chapter this morning on finding your discipline style. So often parents talk about what they don’t want to do: spank, shame, do what their parents did, etc. Figuring out what they do want to do is harder, especially when they didn’t have good models.

Before looking at any specific discipline strategies or techniques, it’s worth considering both where we’re coming from and where we’d like to go. Feel free to answer any of the questions in comments or just do it privately as a way of increasing your awareness about your own history and goals.

  • How were you disciplined as a child?
  • How did you react/feel when being disciplined?
  • What would you like to do the same or differently?
  • What are your goals for disciplining your child(ren)?
  • What discipline issues are coming up in your household these days?
  • What is causing discipline conflicts
    • child (temperament, developmental level, tired/hungry, etc) or
    • you (need to feel in control, unnecessary or unreasonable demand, disrespectful delivery, punitive approach, etc)?
  • What are your triggers? How do you express your feelings and cope with frustrations?
  • What are you doing well as a disciplinarian?
  • What do you wish you were doing differently?

What other questions would you add to this list?

Quiet Time

When my four-year old and I were on a trip recently, he usually managed about ten minutes out with the family we were visiting, the mom, two kids, and two dogs eating and talking and walking around, before he’d say, “I need privacy.” He first learned the term when we were visiting my mom last summer. He wanted to be with her all the time, even when she was in the bathroom and had the door closed. So, not really thinking about how the concept of privacy would be further interpreted, I gave him the message that when the door was closed that meant he (or anybody) should give the person behind said door some time alone.

Fast forward nine months and my son is behind a closed door. Privacy is now his word for space. Though I was a little concerned that his buddy’s feelings would be hurt when he looked at her, said, “I want privacy” and closed the door in her face, I was happy that he had the words to ask for space when he needed it.

We worked on how to politely ask for it during the rest of our trip. It felt somehow in alignment with the other lesson we’re working on right now (one I and many adults need as much as our kids): we can decide what we want to do but we can’t decide what other people are going to do. So when Gilly would come to knock on the door and ask, “Do you want to play now Cavanaugh?” my son learned to say in his nice voice, “I still want some privacy.” We didn’t quite get to, “Thanks for asking. I’ll let you know when I’m ready” but he’s four, so that might be expecting a bit much.

Though the lesson in privacy came because Cavanaugh didn’t want to give my mom a second alone, now that she’s here visiting, he  tried out the concept on my mom this morning. He didn’t ask for privacy or space. He just clung to me and said that we were playing LEGOs with instructions. He knows Gramma doesn’t do LEGO instructions, but buildw “out of her imagination” instead. Here was another way of saying, “I don’t want to play with you right now.” We were in the living room and there was no door to close, so he adapted. I was surprised at his request and impressed with his knowing he needed some alone time with Mama.

With our recent two-week trip to visit friends and now an eight-day visit from my mom, figuring out how much time with other people is something I need to do too. This morning after our LEGO session, I went upstairs to shower and be alone. Then I cleaned off the bathroom counter, made the bed, and put away some laundry. When I’m maxed out, I need to be alone in an orderly environment. I didn’t know that growing up. I didn’t understand privacy. We weren’t allowed to close doors unless we were changing clothes. Now, I understand that the closed door is a healthy boundary, as is asking for privacy or taking space and time when one needs (or wants) it.

Without realizing it, I passed that understanding on to my son. It’s one of those lessons that reminds me he watches what I do and say and learns from it–so I need to watch what I do and say too. In this case, I’m happy with the behavior I modeled and thrilled to see my son trying it on for size. It fits him quite nicely.

How have you taught your kids the concept of taking space when they need it? How was it taught to you?

Traveling Comforts

I’m learning how to give myself permission to want what I want. That means I’m teaching my son how to want what he wants too. I think often of a line from one of my favorite poems, “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver, in regards to this: “You only have to let the soft animal of your body/love what it loves.”

Last January, when we took a road trip to New Mexico, I acknowledged that taking a trip without my espresso machine made me kind of miserable. Every day at home, I have a latte. If I go on a trip without the machine, I have a caffeine headache, count the minutes (or hours) until I can get to a coffee shop to buy one, then spend $5 for a latte, another $2 for chocolate milk for Cavanaugh, and another $2 or so on a muffin, bagel, or pastry. By the time the trip is over, I could have paid for an extra bag or three with the money I’ve spent at coffee shops because I didn’t pack my espresso machine. Bad deal.

We usually fly on Southwest Airlines. Cavanaugh’s old enough that I’ve been buying him his own ticket for over three years. That means we get two bags each, plus SWA allows you to take the carseat for free. Why, exactly, have I been trying to pack so light?

So I don’t get teased about bringing everything but the kitchen sink? So I don’t inconvenience folks by asking them to come all the way into the airport to meet us at the baggage area rather than wait outside so they can drive up to the street? The people we’re going to visit aren’t likely to give me a hard time about what I packed. And so what if they do? Plus, they almost always come in to meet us even if I tell them we’ll make our own way outside.

As we were gathering things to pack for the trip, I remembered that last year I started taking my espresso machine on trips and felt such relief at the thought of packing it that I wondered what else would be really great to have with us.

  • My favorite pillow, a Tempur-Pedic, which gives me a great night’s sleep and means I don’t get the crick in my neck or other pain that sleeping in a strange bed often supplies.
  • My robe. Why hadn’t this ever occurred to me? It’s when I’m staying in other people’s houses that I feel uncomfortable going to breakfast in my pajamas without a bra on. Rather than needing to get dressed first thing, what if I just packed a robe?
  • A can of my favorite coffee to go with my espresso machine, plus Splenda packets (I know they’re probably carcinogens, but I like them, okay?) so I could make a latte without having to make a trip to the store our first day there.

And for Cavanaugh:

  • My favorite pillow happens to be his favorite too. I packed into into his carseat bag so it didn’t take up valuable suitcase space.
  • The stuffed animals he sleeps with. Okay, the three-foot long dolphin didn’t make the trip, but Pigeon, Shutterbug, and Courage are all world travelers now.
  • Enough LEGOs to build the way he would at home (his Atlantis book set so he can follow directions for a bunch of models and have enough pieces to build out of his imagination too), and Star Wars LEGOs, and his LEGO Club magazine to read on the plane.

You know what? One of our hosts came to meet us in baggage claim, helped to carry everything out, commented on how handy our carseat bag was, and everything fit into the car just fine. We’ve been here almost a week and we’re not missing home so much because we brought some of our favorite things with us.

What do you miss when you travel? What do give yourself permission to pack?

Present in the Mundane

“Try to get me mama!” my four year old yells as he runs through the clean clothes piled all over the bedroom floor. Balled socks are his favorite, but he’s happy to avoid any projectile I throw into the sorting piles.

Making laundry into an obstacle course wasn’t a conscious decision, but it sure has made things more fun. It started simply. I was trying to get my son to help me sort. He used to love it. It was one of those things, early on, that helped him feel confident and capable. He was big. He could recognize which clothes belonged to which family member. But that was a couple of years ago. The novelty has long since worn off.

I would have been happy with him just staying in the same room and not knocking over the folded towels, maybe telling me a story or soliciting me to tell him one. But as I sat in the center of the mounds and threw a pair of sweatpants into one pile and a wash cloth into another, Cavanaugh started running through.

Sorting turns much more interesting with a wildly giggling child running through the towels, his clothes, my clothes, and the cloth napkins. It takes a little longer this way and it’s a lot noisier but sorting and putting away the clothes has somehow turned into quality time for us.

One of the things about being divorced is that there’s not another parent here to play with while the other one does the repetitive, time-consuming, and not so fun tasks. Finding a way that Cavanaugh and I can make a game of out the mundane household tasks means it doesn’t have to be work for either one of us.

Grocery shopping has gotten a lot more fun lately too. Since he’s still small enough to sit in the shopping cart, he’s at perfect eye level with me as we navigate the aisles. We play kissing games where he says, “Try to kiss me Mama!” then darts his head to the other side as I try to kiss him. If I manage to land a smooch on his cheeks, he wipes off my kiss and I say, “Oh man,” in utter disappointment. Hilarious.

Even helping him put on a shirt has turned into play. I look through the neck hole when I hold it up for him to put his head through. Why is this funny? He’d have to tell you. The thing all of these games have in common though is that we’re just being present with one another. We look into each other’s eyes. Crossing things off my to-do list has never been so much fun.

What’s your favorite or least favorite chore to try to get done when you’re with your kids? Why?

Potty Eye

“Mama, you have pee on your glasses,” is just one more thing I never expected to hear in this lifetime. Parenthood offers many opportunities.

Our latest is potty learning. Just so you know, that term drove me crazy for a while too, the PCness of it as opposed to the much more familiar “potty training.” What I’m finding, however, is that potty learning is actually much more accurate. The multitude of things one must learn about using a toilet was beyond my understanding.

Explaining to my (then) three-year-old that when he wakes up to pee and has an erection, he actually has to touch his penis while he pees. “Use your finger and push it down or the pee goes between the toilet seat and the bowl. Aim for the water. Yes you can do it without peeing on your fingers.” In the meantime, pee is covering his hand, leaking between the tank and seat, and I catch a whiff of urine as I step into the shower every morning.

The peeing in the potty thing started with trying to use kid potties but Cavanaugh didn’t like them. Neither did I, frankly. The mess of peeing into a plastic contraption, and not arcing urine over the top, was challenge enough. Add to that the likelihood that I would spill said pee on my way to pour it in the toilet and I was not a fan, so I decided to search online how to remove the smell of the urine, and I found an entire guide, I recommend you to try these recommendations were definitely a relief for me.
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