Monday, September 12, 2011

Leaving Less to the Imagination

First things first.  I've updated the Week at a Glance page with meal plans and more!  Go check it out!

Now, on to my thoughts for today,..

It's been almost a year since I decided to get serious about doing more with my time.  I started with a basic framework based on a teacher's plan book and using routines suggested  by The Fly Lady. As I've worked within this framework, I've started every week with an understanding of the bare bones schedule.  However, that left some details that sometimes hung me up when it came to fleshing out the plan.  (I spend more time planning/blogging on Monday than any other day of the week.  Not good when I have so many other things to do just to get the week started.

I decided I needed to shore up this early framework with some additional structure.  I started by designating types of meals for each night.  The girls have dance lessons on Tuesday and Thursday, which means we'll be home a bit later those days.  So, Tuesdays and Thursdays are great Slow Cooker nights.  Mondays are usually pretty predictable so that's my night to try a new dish that might take extra time to prepare.  Next, the hubby asked for more "regular food"a few weeks ago.  He's not a big food adventurer so I've been trying to make meals that aren't too fancy and that I already know he likes.  With that in mind I filled in Wednesday and Friday as "Regular Food" nights.  Finally, Saturday and Sunday will be a grab bag of whatever strikes our fancy.  Sometimes we make elaborate meals, but more often we either go out on the weekends or fix whatever is on hand. 

Next I took a look at my mornings.  I had a general idea that I wanted to spend time with Mr. A doing activities I know will help get him up to speed for the preschool program I've chosen.  Since the girls went back to school, I've just been spending time with him, usually doing whatever he wants but occasionally making suggestions.  We've spent a lot of time admiring his massive Hot Wheels collection the last few weeks, but now I want to move in a more directed direction.  Mondays are now set aside for doing puzzles and playing structured games - like Candyland or Alphabet Bingo.  Tuesday will be his day to lead.  If he wants to look at all his cars again, fine.  Mr. A leads the play.  Wednesday is a good day for a craft.  The girls come home from school early, but still at different times, so if I plan it right, I can make something appropriate for my three year old then my five year old and then my eight year old all before it's time to clean up for dinner.  Thursday is the day I'll make plans to play outside.  Mr. A loves playing in the yard, but he's often playing alone while I do yard work.  I realized some time ago that Mr. A wasn't really swinging in a big kid swing the way he ought to be this summer and immediately felt bad.  He just lights up when I actually play with him in the sand box or take him down a walking trail.  I can see it's something he wants more of.  He hasn't had enough mommy time on the playground so whether we visit a park or just hang in our own yard I'm vowing right now to spend at least one morning a week outside playing with him.  Finally, Friday will be our day to push the academics.  I'm not a mom who wants push my child way beyond their peers, but I want to make school easy for them.  I want them to know I value the things they learn at school.  The best way to do that is to spend time doing similar things at home.  The girls have their homework so I'm automatically doing academic activities with them.  I want to do the same with Mr. A.  Of course right now that means simply encouraging him to pick up a crayon - which he has almost no interest in right now - and finding fun ways to learn Nursery Rhymes or the alphabet.  This isn't the age for drills, but there are many ways to bring in school skills through fun. 

Using these new guidelines did make planning my week easier.  Instead of having so much up in the air, I knew right where to start.  I love it already! 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tender Hearts and Dog Books

Miss E has a tender little heart.  She's always been very sensitive.  She hates getting in trouble, she's pretty good at putting herself in another's shoes and oh, fights with friends just absolutely kill her.  I got a sweet reminder of what a softie she is last night and and that I am as well.  She was looking for book for me to read for her bedtime story.  I have boxes of books left over from my teacher days, so I periodically put new ones in the kids' bookcase.  Miss E loves finding something new, and she's so my child that finding a book she hasn't read yet can completely make her day.

She smiled when she found Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.  It's one of my favorite children's books about a little boy mourning the loss of his dog and learning to communicate through and love poetry.  I think it's a truly beautiful book, but my heart dropped a little when I saw she had chosen it for me to read to her.  I tried to read it with a class of fourth grade students once and bawled all the way through.  I'm afraid I ruined it for them because I'm just a big ol' softie myself, especially when it comes to dogs.  And sad kids.  I still feel kinda bad - those kids surely thought I was nuts.  I obviously decided Miss E was old enough to read the book when I put it in her shelf.  In fact, I remember hoping she'd pick it up, thinking it would challenge her.  I wanted her to read something beautiful because at the time she was loving some drivel based on a tween Disney show.  I didn't count on her choosing it as a read aloud though.  Gosh, I'm not ready for that.  Watching her mother weep openly over a small book of poetry probably isn't the way to show my tender hearted eight year old how wonderful books can be.

So, I warned her.  I told her the book was beautiful but very sad.  She asked why it was sad - it looks so cheerful on the outside...  I asked her what she thought could make a book about a boy and his dog sad.  She immediately knew the dog died, and she frowned.  I reassured her that it was one of my favorite books, that I thought she was grown up enough to read it.  Then I told her "but you should know, I'm going to cry when I read".  She asked why I loved it when it made me cry.  We had a little conversation about how one of the best things about books are the way they stir our emotions and it's not  bad to feel sad.  I told her I loved this book because it's simply written, but really well done.  I loved it because it can show kids ways to open up about their own sad feelings.  Most of all I loved it because I've felt that way about pets myself so the story really appealed to me.  She decided she wanted me to read something less emotional for her bed time story, but she took Love That Dog to bed with her.  I hope she reads it.  When she does, she's going to cry, but I think she'll love it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

ARGH!!! The Flu!

Yes, I mysteriously disappeared from the blog again.  I have been trying really, really hard to get our back to school routines in place but I have been stymied again and again by The Flu! Miss E brought it home from school, then Mr. A picked it up, then I took my turn and now Miss M has it.  Fortunately it's not a nasty, truly disgusting version but still, it's keeping us from our normal lives.  That's incredibly frustrating this time of year when there's already so much changing.  Oh well, what'cha gonna do but live through it.

Today's original plan was to hit the grocery store with Mr. A and then head to the park for a little bit before we met Miss M at her bus stop.  That's obviously out the window.  Instead I'm going to try to tackle the never ending list of easily overlooked household jobs.  I noticed the other day that the ceiling fan is particularly dusty/furry these days, so I'll start there and move on to cleaning all the vents and sweeping down cobwebs and dust bunnies.  If I manage to finish that along with all my regular stuff I'll feel really good about myself and spend the rest of the day playing.  Miss M so far doesn't seem to be suffering too much, so I'll bet she'd like it if we spent some time with the puzzles and blocks today.  In fact, I've been trying to spend more time doing things like that with Mr. A.  I've been thinking of it as his preschool time because while he's old enough for preschool now, he's not quite ready for it.  (The school I like requires kids to be fully potty trained and basically follows a kindergarten outline.  He's neither completely potty trained nor really ready for that much structure.)  I'll write more about preschool time another day though.  Today I'm going to go pamper my little sickie, clean my house and see just how tall I really can build a block tower.

Oh, and if you're interested, this week's meal plan is basically last week's carried over with a couple of new additions.  With all the sickness we didn't really have regular meals last week.  So, since I already have all the supplies on hand, I'm keeping the same plan. Of course you can see the meal plan on the Week at a Glance page.