Summer Sanity

Here are some great ideas for activities you can do for summer. After I told my sister about my trepidation of entertaining my kids on a budget all summer she gave me a great idea: have the kids write down ten to twenty simple activities each (that are free or super cheap) and then put each idea in a hat. Pull them out and assign them each a day of summer on the calendar. We did it and so far so good. I was amazed with how well the kids did coming up with things. It really is true that sometimes they just want their parents’ time more than their money. Some of the things we’ve done so far are a sidewalk chalk competition, a family movie night, bike ride, hike, swimming, baking out of that cookbook Bella got for Christmas. I’ve actually been able to enjoy myself a bit. As shown below. Yeah, it may have only lasted 10 minutes, but this mom of 4 will take what she can get.alice swim

If you were reading a few weeks back you’ll remember how I voiced my dread at the impending summer. Well I am happy to announce that I am fairing pretty well so far. After a specific session of marriage counseling that I will elaborate on later I have been able to let go of a lot of the negativity that has been plaguing me. But most of all I have made a specific plan of action that has been working for me.

It’s giving the whole family a balance between activity, productivity, and relaxation. What I love the most is that the plan is SIMPLE. The longer I parent the more I believe in simple. I have found that for me (as well as most others) if things are too elaborate they die down quickly.

So what is this magical plan? It’s based off of this quote:

“The child become a person through work.” ~ Maria Montessori

I want to teach my kids to work. I knew that if I incorporated work into each day that then the activities would be much more appreciated. And they have been.

So what is the plan? Every day this summer includes chore time. Period. It usually doesn’t last more than one hour. I look around the house and give them options of what needs to be done. They choose what they like to do. Lucky for me they all like to do different things.

What is their incentive? SCHOOL CLOTHES! (I don’t know if this will work as well with boys but with girls it has been magical.) It’s a win/win. We would ¬†usually¬†buy them clothes anyway, but they can live without them. So if they want the clothes, they have to earn them and if they don’t earn them, no big deal. Every day after chore time they give themselves a tally mark on a piece of paper on the fridge. Every tally mark is worth a $1. By the end of the summer they can earn over $50 and that is all we usually let them spend anyway. (You may want to up the amount symbolized by each tally mark as I know 50 is small, but our kids do most of their shopping at the thrift-store so $50 is sufficient – we’re poor – what can I say)

This idea was inspired by a story I heard from a friend of a returning missionary in Africa. Our church embodies self-reliance and so our outreach efforts across the world are a little different than a lot of those that just do handouts. We look for lasting change, and so we teach people to work. I guess in Africa, we run a program that teaches people to make their own bricks. When they have molded enough bricks, the church then gives them the mortar and helps them construct a home. When I heard this I thought, “Genius, I must find a way to utilize this same theory with my kids.” And so I have. And guess what? My kids love it! They feel accomplished when they work and after they have worked they are happier for a break. They are looking forward to the fruits of their labor in the form of school clothes and they are learning that NO ONE gets something for nothing. It feels good to provide for ourselves and the work is more meaningful now that they see it is affiliated with earning something. It’s no longer a drudgery.

Gosh, I need to affiliate my work as a mother with the long lasting things I am earning so I can let go of the drudgery.

Here is some great food for thought on teaching children the value of work.


Impending Doom

I have exactly 30 minutes til my kids walk in from their last full day of school. Summer is here! (Yeah they have school for an hour tomorrow but that doesn’t really count except as an evil educator’s trap to get me out of bed early one more day.)

I have been dreading summer. I am usually way excited about it as I am an easy-going gal that loves the pool, smoothies, and sleeping in. This summer is different for me, just like life lately. I am in the middle of a mid-life crisis, therefore nothing is meant to be enjoyed.

How am I spending my last 30 minutes of freedom (when the toddling tornado happens to be napping)? I am eating straight from the bag of chips while zoning out into my computer. And it feels so good. I may not get to post for a few more months as the children think my laptop is meant solely for their entertainment. I cannot get my hands on it. Ever.

I know I am a killjoy lately. I cannot even stand to listen to myself on the blog. negative. negative. negative.

This is what I have figured out. I hate being poor. I have been poor my whole life. I hate NOT having control over it. We aren’t really poor. My hubby has a great income, but $1,000 a month goes to student loans and that eats up our disposable income. I just want financial freedom to do what I want when I want. I had all these grand ideas a few months back: I was going back to school, I would get a good job, we’d start chipping away at the student loans. But then God stepped in. He not only said, “Alice quit your job, you need to be home”, but he also said, “You have one more baby waiting.” Although having another member of the family join us from God’s realms makes me happy, all the other stuff that goes with it does not.

Babies are HARD and I am FORTY years old!! I am not even out of the hard stage with Caroline yet and I am willingly going to jump back into it again?? Not only am I dreading the ins and outs of caring for a baby (not the baby itself) but I can’t get over the resentment I feel that I can’t work to provide myself with greater financial freedom. I just want to have a vacation now and again, be able to afford to go to college, and give my kids nice things. Is that too much to ask?

But I love God, I believe in Him, and I am trying my hardest to believe Him…Believe that He knows best for me. I feel like He is guiding me OUT of certain areas of my life: blogging, book reviews, working at the school, but I haven’t figured out anything that He is guiding me into yet. Except for the baby. And the baby only leaves me conflicted and doubtful. It took me 3 years to get Caroline and 3 more to get the last pregnancy that I miscarried at 18 weeks. Time is running out.

And what is upon me? Summer. All my kids here every minute of every day wanting to be entertained, and I have no extra money. I am not happy about it. I just want to go and have fun with them every day. I know I can do that without money and have even planned something to do every day that doesn’t cost money, but I don’t want to do it that way, I want to do it MY way, which would include spending money.

I feel like in my life cinematic experience there is a little creature popping up on the screen every 30 seconds with a dun, dun, dun. I am living a tragedy.

I take my anti-depressants, I run 3 times a week, I don’t feel necessarily depressed, but WHY do I sound like I am? I just can’t get happy unless I get to do what I WANT TO DO. Can I find a happy medium between pursuing my own happiness while simultaneously listening to God? I don’t know. If I can I don’t know HOW yet.

I can tell you one thing, it’s going to be near to impossible during the months of June, July, and August. Good timing, God.