Posts Tagged ‘family’

5 Tips To Survive Summer With Little Kids

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Blog disclosure: This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of The Breastfeeding Shop via SoFluential Media. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Guys, summer is here!

You can read that in a super happy, excited voice: Horray! It’s summer! No school! Beach days! Ice cream for dinner!

Or you can read that in a slightly panicked voice: Summer is HERE. You are out of time to find camps or activities and I hope you like making 17 separate meals a day.

I have a million children. Technically, the actual number is four, but let me tell you reality means absolutely nothing when all of them are hungry/bored/tired/mad/have a tiny hangnail/thirsty/fighting at the same time. Four kids at four different ages means four different sets of needs and ability levels and nap (or no nap) schedules. Did I mention I also really hate having to feed everyone all the time? I really hate that part.

After 9 summers as the parent of at least one baby I’ve learned a lot about how to survive – and enjoy – summer, even with a million kids, even when I’m solo-parenting, even when I’m running on empty by lunchtime and still have a long way to go before bed. Here are my top 5 best tips to survive summer with little kids.

  1. Add more children. OK, this seems counterintuitive, but hear me out. Some of our easiest playdates are with my friend Sarah, who also has four children. Her kids + my kids = so many kids there’s always someone to play with or talk to or rope into your particular imaginary world. My babies love having big kids to play with who aren’t the regular big kids they see every day, and then when my big kids see the babies getting attention from other kids they remember that they love their babies too and then everyone just seems more fun.
  2. Find your happy place. Our happy place is The Lake. The Lake is a local beach club we pay a membership for each year. It has lots of big trees for shade, picnic tables, grills, a big grassy field for running around, a beach for digging and swimming, a dock for fishing, swings and a playset for climbing and it’s awesome. The Lake requires some supervision, but not nearly as much as you might think (see tip 3). If you don’t have a lake, think of somewhere your whole family enjoys – somewhere kid-friendly, where you might run into other kids for your’s to play with, where you can SIT DOWN and relax. It might take a few tries, but one you have a happy place it can be your go-to all summer long when you can’t stand to stare at the inside of your house any longer but don’t have the energy to do something new. Go every morning. Go every afternoon. Don’t worry you go to the same place too much, your kids don’t mind.
  3. Floaties. Listen, kids are going to try to drown themselves. It’s just what they do. If you have a tiny baby who can’t walk or crawl yet, your summer will be fine. If you’ve reached the mobile stage, going anywhere near water is beyond stressful. We have the floaty rule: if you are near the water, you wear a floaty. The baby wears one 100% of the time at the lake. The toddler wears one 85% of the time at the lake. The big kids – who are 9 and 7 – had to pass a swim test last year and this year before I let them give up the floaties. If we go to a pool, anyone who can’t touch the bottom wears a floaty. Our friends enforce floaty rules with their kids, my parents enfore floaty rules at their house, it’s just non-negotiable. We have found that the Speedo brand Splash Jammers are ideal – they have shoulder straps as well as arm floats, they’re approved by the Coast Guard as life jackets, and even my 1-year-old can’t get it off on his own. Target sells them. WEAR YOUR FLOATIES.
  4. Lower your standards. For real, set that bar at a level you can achieve by noon every day. Did your children eat something? Does the baby have a clean diaper? Did you remember to eat something too? Is your house clean enough that you could escape in case of a fire? Then you’re fine. Tomorrow you can put away some laundry or do the dishes. Next week you can plan a fun outing to the zoo or the splash pad. But right now, you’re doing fine. It’s fine. You’re a good parent.
  5. Have fun. This tip is sort of like “treasure every moment because you only get 18 summers with your kid before they’re old enough to leave home” but that is bad advice no one needs. The days are long but the years are short is the same thing, but again, the days are SO long it’s not helpful to remind anyone it won’t last forever. But we can try to have fun, even when we have small humans to take care of. Put on a bathing suit and get in the water with them. Have ice cream for lunch or dinner (or lunch and dinner). Roll your windows down in the car. Play music really loud and have a dance party. My kids get such a kick out of me being Fun Mom, they act surprised and delighted every time. It’s like when Fun Dad chases them around pretending to be a dinosaur or Fun Grandma lets them pick out candy at the grocery store. You can be fun too! You’re the boss, even if you bend the rules a little bit for a special treat. It won’t ruin your children forever, I promise.

Military friends! One way to make your life easier when you have a baby is getting a NO COST breast pump from The Breastfeeding Shop. If you have Tricare, all you need is a prescription from your doctor and The Breastfeeding Shop will ship a pump right to your house. If you or someone you know is pregnant or has a new baby, be sure to tell them about this program, because having a pump is a lifesaver when you’re nursing. My baby will be 2 in August and I still need my pump occasionally (yup, still nursing, nope, no plans to stop). Check out The Breastfeeding Shop’s Tricare page for more information.

Blue Star Museum Summer: Rough Point, Newport Rhode Island

Monday, June 4th, 2018

During the summer (between Memorial Day and Labor Day), hundreds of museums across the country offer FREE admission to active duty military and their families through the Blue Star Museum program. Fun fact, you can thank the Obama administration for starting the program in 2010! THANKS OBAMA! You can see a full list of museums that participate here at this link. I made our family a printable to keep on the fridge, which I’ll include at the bottom of the post.

We absolutely LOVE the Blue Star program and plan our summer weekends around the list of local and semi-local places we can visit for free. When E is home and available, we have to pay for six people to get in. When E is gone, I’m desperate for new, fun stuff to do with the kids to distract them. We really really appreciate this program. p.s. Not sponsored or anything, just sharing the info so people take advantage of the program and hopefully they keep it up.

To kick off our summer, we went to Newport, Rhode Island, home of the “summer cottages” for the richest people in the country’s history. Did you watch Downton Abbey? The houses are all like that. I’m pretty sure on Downton they even mention going to Newport for the summer. About a dozen of the mansions are now open to the public, and we will definitely go back to do the rest of the tours through the Preservation Society of Newport County. But we started with Rough Point, which is maintained by the Newport Restoration Foundation.

The house was built between 1887-1891 by a Vanderbilt. In 1922, James Duke (created Lucky Strike cigarettes and made a boatload of money) bought it and made a bunch of renovations to “lighten” the interior, including plaster ceilings and more windows. When Mr. Duke died in 1925, he left his entire fortune to his 12-year-old daughter Doris, who was called “the richest little girl in the world”. She owned it and summered there most years until she died in 1993, when it was turned into a museum. So everything in the house was personally picked out, displayed, touched and loved by Doris. She seems like a super cool, interesting, fun person – many of the priceless art had been repaired after one of her many many huge dogs broke it – and seeing how she decorated each room was fascinating.

It was fun to watch my kids explore the house where Doris Duke was a child. My brain has a hard time wrapping itself around the timeline of how someone who actually lived in that kind of splendor also installed the same Dustbuster my mom had in the butler’s pantry. The kids enjoyed imagining they could ring a bell and servants would appear to bring them juice or snacks. It was even more fun to let them run around outside on the beautiful, immaculate lawns and gardens. It was really easy to imagine Doris Duke and her friends rolling down the hills in June 1923, because kids rolling down hills is universal and timeless. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the house, so these are just from our time outside.

That bridge is part of the Cliff Walk, the public path along the ocean in front of many of the mansions. Next time we’ll do at least part of the Cliff Walk (it’s 7 miles round-trip).

We showed up without a real plan around 11:30 on a beautiful Saturday when the town was very busy and full of tourists. There was plenty of parking on the estate, the group tour left 5 minutes after we walked in, and it lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. With Finnegan in a baby carrier and strict instructions to the kids not to touch anything, it was very pleasant, relaxed and interesting. E and I both enjoyed it – he asked tons of questions – and would definitely recommend it as either a grown-up date or a family activity.

Here’s our summer list for 2018 Blue Star Musuems. There’s one PA museum because I’m hoping to visit my BFF in PA at least once this year and one in Virginia for the week we’re at my parents, but the rest are right here in New England! If any friends want to join us, please let me know. If you’ve been to any of these and have tips, also let me know! We’ve been to The Carle, KidCity, Springfield and the Mystic Nature Center before, but the rest are all new (or mostly new, E and I have both been to the Constitution but not with the kids).

Easter 2018

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Happy Easter! I didn’t take pictures of the bazillion eggs the bunny left all over the house – or the mess the kids made ripping apart their baskets – because I prefer to just remember the adorable, photogenic parts of our holidays. Even so, you will notice a distinct lack of pictures that include all four children. Did you know four children is a lot of children? It seems like even more than usual when you’re running around a busy farm full of old buildings, tempting mud puddles and tons of baby goats. Plus that’s an exhausting way to spend the morning if you’re a baby, so Finn slept through most of dinner.

But yay for baby goats at Beltane Farm! They also did an egg hunt, and Evan found the golden egg that said “winner” inside. He won the cheese of his choice from the store and picked something called “Duchess”, which was super delicious and not at all what you would expect an 8-year-old to be excited about. My kid is pretty cool.

That last face is Caroline trying the lemon meringue pie we made yesterday. She’s a fan.

Deployment Homecoming Pictures (USS Virginia 2018)

Monday, March 19th, 2018

This is the first deployment homecoming were we had kids, so it’s the first time I really cared about deployment homecoming pictures. You know how I love a good excuse to make elaborate and detailed plans (see: birthday parties, daily photo projects, trips to Disney), so picking out our outfits with contingencies for weather was a good way to keep myself focused on the endgame. We were lucky that although it was cold and cloudy with a few raindrops, the weather was actually pretty good for February. (That’s how you can tell I’ve been in New England too long – cold and rainy is “good”.)

All credit for these goes to the amazing Anna Sawin from Anna Sawin Photography, who stepped in to be my photographer when a schedule change meant my original photog couldn’t make it. I was so worried I would end up taking the pictures myself. This is the one time I actually want to be IN the photos.

Sorry not sorry there are so many. This is the narrowed down version!

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uss virginia deployment homecoming pictures

 

 

General Life Update First Quarter 2018

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Oh hi internet. Once we made it to Homecoming I sort of forgot I had a blog. But I caught my husband checking the page to see if I had posted anything, so I think even he might appreciate a life update all in one place.

First thing everyone wants to know: Yes, it is super great to have E home. We all missed him a lot, for a bunch of reasons, and now that he’s back things are much better. He had two whole weeks completely off of work and now he’s on sort of half-work for a few more days, so I’m able to schedule doctor’s visits, parent-teacher conferences and hair appointments without having to bring 4 kids.

Speaking of hair, I made some drastic changes. I haven’t had hair this short in a decade, and I haven’t been this blonde since I was a child. It’s been a week and I am still LOVING it. (This is a HUGE photo of my face, but it’s my face so deal with it.)

Once E got his bags unpacked, he immediately tackled the to-do list I’ve been keeping. He fixed a ton of stuff, did a bunch of tech support, finished our taxes, and let the kids climb all over him as much as they want. We’ve been having a great time doing some 5- or 10-year life planning as well as some RIGHT NOW updates, like finally replacing our horrible stove and ancient mattress. Buying a new stove and mattress feels very grown up.

Finnegan has quit sleeping at night, which is fun for no one. He’s also nursing as much as a newborn, which I am not enjoying in the least. I had no intention of weaning him until he was ready on his own, but right now getting 8 hours sleep seems worth a little effort. He’s such a happy, pleasant baby during the day and so easy to put down for a nap, I do not understand why he is trying to kill me every night. This isn’t our first rodeo so I know all the things we can do to sleep train/gentle sleep train/not sleep train/cry it out/not cry it out/etc etc etc. I just need to decide if I’m at the point where I have to do something or if I can just keep hoping he grows out of it any minute.

Caroline had her first cheer competition last Saturday. Her team came in second, so she’s really proud of herself. We aren’t pointing out that there were only two teams in her division. Honestly though, she did REALLY great for her first even public cheer performance – the stage was huge, there were a lot of people and lights and the music is super loud, plus it was a long day for a bunch of small humans. Tons of waiting around for a 3-minute routine. She has two more this year – one this weekend and one in April – and I suspect she’s going to start begging to join a full year cheer team as soon as she can. I’m not sure how I feel about being a full-time competitive cheer mom, but I also don’t want to take away something she’s so in love with. She has already volunteered to quit most of her other activities if she can keep cheer.

Lincoln has an acute case of the Terrible Threes. He’s mad he’s not old enough for all the stuff the big kids do, so he takes it out on everyone in the family by being a jerk, hitting people or screaming. It’s not my favorite age. I did manage to potty train him (yay!) and he’s doing great at school (also yay!) and his speech is really improving (thank god) but he’s living in a glass case of emotion and spends SO MUCH of his time crying. It must be exhausting, but I don’t know how to help him.

Evan is such a mystery to me. He’s a really chill kid until something sets him off, and then he loses his mind. He was doing great at school until suddenly he can’t remember basic math facts. He is very helpful and responsible until he gets a screen in front of him and then it’s like he’s gone deaf and blind. He will be super kind to Finnegan and then do something to intentionally make him cry. He has started lying about small stuff to test us, so I’m trying to both assure him that I will always appreciate the truth and also sort of scare him so he knows he gets in big trouble if he’s caught lying. You guys, I don’t know what I’m doing. He’s going to be NINE next month and that’s so old. I remember being nine. There’s so much going on inside you. This isn’t like having a fourth baby that won’t sleep, this is brand new.

I’ve started planning out our summer already (it keeps me sane while I stare at the two feet of snow in my yard), and the kids are excited for various camps and activities that are on our calendar. We don’t actually need to keep quite AS busy as we did during deployment, but if the snow days have taught us anything it’s that being all together in our house is THE WORST, so between lakes, beaches, camps and trips, I’m hoping to avoid the level of togetherness that makes everyone want to strangle each other.

It’s supposed to snow again next week. I am not ok with this.

Evan and Caroline have started asking about maybe not sharing a room anymore, so we’re going to have to figure that out.

I have mini sessions coming up in a few weeks. If you’re local to Connecticut (or local-ish enough), I would love to take your picture! You can see the link here on my Facebook.

A few months ago, I started to follow the keto diet (aka bacon all day) and I really like it but at the moment my sugar cravings are winning. I need to commit again because I’m in search of a ball gown for a ball in a few weeks and nothing makes me more depressed than trying on clothes.

I think that’s everything even remotely interesting about my current life. I’ll try to get up our Homecoming photos taken by our amazing photographer (not me) soon, because who doesn’t love military homecoming photos?! There are just so many it’s going to take me a minute to cull them down.

 

 

 

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