Monday, June 12, 2017

Making the Most of Summer: For Working Moms

Ahh, summer! That idyllic time of year. The days are long. The nights are warm. The kids are out of school. And mom and dad still have to work...

I know it's not like that for every family. Some families have a parent that stays home full-time year round. Some families have a parent that teaches, or otherwise has a job with summers off. Some families have parents that are able to otherwise adjust their work schedules to tag team the child care during the summer.

Not the case in our house. I work full time and so does Ken. My job is the more traditional 8-5 and his varies throughout the week. Regardless, there's no way for us to handle summer care just between the two of us, so we turn to other solutions.

At one point, I had considered a nanny or babysitter for the kids. This is a solution that could work great for families with multiple kids who need care over the summer. I live in a college town and work in a educational setting. I have a wide variety of kid-loving college students to choose from, but I've decided a nanny wouldn't really work for us. My main concerns were money and behavior. My kids tend to get tired of each other rather quickly and I've always been scared that they would fight with each other constantly and make life miserable for the nanny. It would be possible, of course, for the nanny to take them out to different places, but the free options would run out rather quickly and the paid options would add up to more than would be feasible for us.

The option that I have found for us is one that might not work for everyone, but it's worth considering if you're looking for new summer child-care options. Again, I work in a college town and there are lots of different activities going on all summer. There are actually two universities, a college and a community college in my area. This makes for a great variety of cultural and social events, but I don't think higher ed is a necessity for this plan to work.

I call what my kids do in the summer "camp hopping." Each week my kids go to a different local camp. There is a lot of juggling involved to find a camp each week, but once it's done I'm super excited to see all the fun things they get to do.

Here are some places to try when you're looking for summer activities:

Try your local recreation center, karate places, or sports' teams. You can often find sport specific camps for your kids to try out during the week. This summer Henry gets to try out skateboarding camp! We considered soccer camp as well, but it didn't fit in the schedule this year.

Local businesses exist to make a profit, and some of them had have gotten creative. Our local fabric shop has sewing camps all summer long. They are a bit pricey, but Frances has really enjoyed the classes and gotten some fun new clothes and room decorations to bring home. The art store also has camps all summer. The kids get to try out a variety of types of creative expression.

The local university runs a really fun poetry camp each summer. I worried at first that Frances would struggle writing with poetry, but it turns out this camp is much more than that. The kids spend all week engrossed in creative expression, from art work to dance moves.

The kids' school system has a week-long enrichment camp for kids. There are a wide variety of topics the kids can choose from. The classes are taught by school-teachers and other community members who love working with kids.

I have a friend who is very involved in 4-H who passed along some info about a 4-H sewing camp to me. Frances isn't able to make that one, but Henry is excited to try it out.

Are your kids musically inclined? Mine play violin during the school year and also have a violin camp one week each summer. This particular one is tied onto a local music festival that the kids get to perform at as well.

The local children's museum has different camps each week. I've seem Lego camps, princess camps, STEM camps, and many more. A lot of these are half-day camps, so they aren't ideal, but I've found a way to make them work in the past.

When people think of summer camp, one of the first things that often comes to mind is sleep-away camp. Both Frances and Henry have had a chance to try these out. It's a good experience for the kids to spend a week away from home. They make new friends and have a great time!

There are often weeks that I can't get filled in with this plan. That might be a good week to plan a vacation from work if you've got that flexibility. I've been fortunate that each of my kids has been able to spend a week at "Camp Grandma and Grandpa." I've split it up so that each kids gets their own personal week to spend with my parents. It's obviously fun for that kid to be and only child for a week, but it's also neat to see how the dynamic changes around here for the other two kids.

If vacation and grandparents aren't an option, it might be worth calling a few friends. If you can arrange play dates a few times during the week, that could really go a long way in filling out your plan. Also, there's nothing wrong with getting a nanny or sitter for one or two specific weeks when other things aren't going on.

This plan can be a headache to set up, I'll be honest. There are some weeks that I just can't find anything and some weeks when I've found two really great possibilities that I've had to choose between. Some of the weeks are more expensive than others, but I try to keep the average to less than $100 per kid per week. This budget allows me to know when I can splurge on some more expensive things like the horse camp Frances went to one year.

When I start looking for camps, I ask on local Facebook pages to see what other people are doing. I've also made and kept a spreadsheet of our plan that I can go back and look at when I need to remember a camp from previous years. Once it's all planned out, it's such a relief to know that my kids will have a great summer with a wide variety of fun experiences. And I can go to work each day and not worry about my kids.

What do you do to keep your kids cared for and entertained for the summer? Are you a working mom looking for child care, or a SAHM trying not to stay at home too much?

The June theme for the Blog with Friends Challenge is SCHOOL's OUT. Check out how others interpreted the theme.

Karen has a frozen berries and cream cocktail!

Kia has some great reads for ESL teachers.

Lydia has some great non-screen ideas if you're home for the summer.

Dawn has a frozen mocha coffee.

Melissa has some fun flower cards.

Tamara has a great summer bucket list.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Almost Heaven

I seem to end up with weird amounts of time between commitments. It often happens that I'll have a spare hour between picking up one kid and picking up another. It's not really enough time to go home and get anything done. I've got a kid or two with me, so I can't really just sit in the car and read, and I'm averse to window shopping because that seems to always involve my wallet.

What do I do? I drive!

It used to be more fun back when I was single and gas was cheap. I remember gas prices being below a dollar. I never thought twice about filling up my car and going for a drive. I would frequently take "the scenic route" to get home from a destination. I got to know a lot of the back roads around where I live from doing that and now I know some of the "hollers" just as well as 3rd generation natives. (That's an exaggeration, but it was fun to type!)

Now I do it when I've got time to kill but don't feel like going home. Last fall we had an hour break between soccer games. I would have wasted about half of that just driving home and back, so instead, I took off down the road with the kids. They love windy, twisty country roads! In fact, they often ask to go for a "roller coaster drive" because the dips and turns make their stomachs flip flop and they love it!

Last Friday I had some time in between picking the kids up from school and going to church for a party. I technically had enough time to go home, but I figured they'd get into their electronics and not want to get off, so instead I headed down the road.

It was about 10 minutes before one of them noticed we weren't where they thought we were supposed to be.

"Where are we going?"

"For a drive." I responded.

We drove for another 30 minutes before I asked them if they wanted to go to West Virginia. They were ecstatic. That made me a little worried. I wasn't taking them anywhere interesting in West Virginia. Just, literally across the state line. There's a little scenic overlook just across the border.
A post shared by Rabia Lieber (@mamarabia) on

Luckily Frances remembered a time when we'd done it before and explained to the boys, "Mommy does this a lot. She drives over the border so we can look at the mountains. They'll we'll go home."

It was a beautiful day for a drive. The roads weren't busy. The radio stayed mostly in tune and the sun over the valley was just beautiful when we got to our destination. We got out, stretched our legs, and took a few pictures. I chatted with a woman on her way to Texas and Frances and Henry pet her dog.

After a few minutes, we got back in the car and headed to church.

It was a nice drive. I'm glad we got the chance to leave Virginia, even if it was only for 20 minutes. Driving is quite relaxing for me.

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 11 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado
Spatulas on Parade 
The Blogging 911 
The Bergham Chronicles
Bookworm in the Kitchen 
Simply Shannon 
Southern Belle Charm 
Never Ever Give Up Hope 
Part-time Working Hockey Mom

My subject was "Road Rage, do you have it? How do you control it?"  It was submitted by Spatulas on Parade.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Double Digit Day!

It's another double digit day!! If you add all my years of parenting experience together, today I hit the big 3-0. That's because my mid-kid is 10!! Henry's excited because it's also the first day of summer. The kids get a Daddy Day, so they dropped me off at work this morning and Henry answered some interview questions for me:

1. What is your favorite color? Blue
2. What is your favorite toy? My finger flashlight
3. What is your favorite fruit? apple
4. What is your favorite tv show? Pokemon
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? pizza
6. What is your favorite outfit? my birthday shirt
7. What is your favorite game? Pokemon
8. What is your favorite snack? Goldfish
9. What is your favorite animal? cheetah
10. What is your favorite song? Bad Blood
11. What is your favorite book? NNEWTS (a graphic novel)
12. Who is your best friend? Emerson
13. What is your favorite cereal? Cinnamon Toast Crunch
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? play on the swing
15. What is your favorite drink? root beer
16. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? books
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? cottage cheese
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? seafood
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? scientist

He asked me afterwards if I kept all his old answers to see how they change. I thought it was cute that he'd figured that out. I hope to print them all out someday so they can see all their answers and how they've grown.

My other tradition has been making the kids birthday shirts. Henry got the first shirt when he was 4I guess that means I've made about 21 of those for my kids. I've saved all of those too. Hopefully they go into a quilt some day. It's fun to see how those have evolved over time too!

Happy birthday, Henry! I love you!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Last Day of School 2017

Today is the last day of school for 2017! Technically it should have been Friday, but we didn't get enough snow this year (fine by me!) and they cut two days off the end of the year. Poor Henry. He was looking forward to a school birthday and he almost had it!
First Day of School 2016

It's been a year for the memory books, that's for certain! We lived in three different houses during this school year. Thankfully, I was able to petition the school board to let the kids stay in their familiar schools. Moving twice has had it's hurdles and had not been all sunshiney. To be totally honest, most of it has sucked. But now we're (mostly) settled and we should be able to stay that way for a while.

Frances had a good year for the most part. She still struggles to keep herself organized, but she's been excited about her learning and she's had good friends to interact with. She did two different dance classes and kept up with violin as well. During school she took French, teen living (home ec), Drama, and programming. She's really enjoyed all of those electives. She was invited to join the Young Women's Leadership Program and got lots of fun experiences and knowledge through that. She's gotten a new Big Sister and has had fun getting to know her and spend time with her.

Henry has soared this year! He has matured significantly and really tempered his personality. He has loved his teacher, his classmates and his school. He's participated in violin, Orff, choir, and soccer. He comes home every day with a new story about what's he's learned or what hysterical thing a friend did in class. He's sweetly sad to see this year come to an end, but he's glad he'll still be at Spotswood next year, as the 5th grade is moving back to elementary.

Ben has had the biggest struggles this year. Academically, he's great. He reads, writes, and maths well above grade level, but all the home stress has been too much for him on many days and...let's just say he's made friends with ALL the office staff. I have been really thankful with how well the school has made accommodations for him and we've all been working together to make his days go as smoothly as possible. His teacher is an absolute saint, and I'm not sure where we'd be without her! I'm still keeping my eye on things and have a few plans already implemented to keep up with progress over the summer and get him started on the right track next year. He's not old enough for many of the programs the other two have participated in, but he has enjoyed soccer this year.

All in all, I'm glad for the school year to come to an end. Things don't change a whole lot for me and my daily schedule, since I still work full time all summer, but their mental loads should decrease greatly and they've got a chance to take part in some fun summer camps in the next 11 weeks.

Last Day of School 2017

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