Books, Family

πŸ–Summer break is in sight! πŸ–Ό

It’s that time of year again…Summer Break!! β˜€οΈ Well …we still have about ten hectic school days to finish here in CT but we can see the finish line! As much as I love a break from the routine, I don’t love the kids complaining they’re bored, bickering and expecting me to be cruise director EVERY SINGLE DARN DAY!! So that being said I still try to provide some casual structure to our summers. My kids know they have to be responsible for their rooms, cleaning up after themselves around the house , some chores and get some reading time in on the daily. But I also like to keep their brains from shriveling up which means some learning needs to happen, but just a tiny bit.

When my oldest finished her first year of preschool her teacher gave each student a Bridge book for the summer. What an amazing and generous gift that was and it’s now been our tradition for ten years! Every year as the school year comes to an end I order my kids each a Bridge book based on the grade they finished and the grade they will be entering. Every (well that’s an exaggeration, so let’s say most) weekday mornings in the summer I will ask the kids to do 20-30 minutes in their Bridge books. When they were little they loved it and they would want to keep going and often even pull out the book during the day. As they get older and pages get harder it’s certainly more of a chore. But I’m here to help and I enjoy having my morning coffee in the kitchen while they sit and do some work.

I used to order on EBay but this year I ordered from Amazon, and they’re super cheap! Most books are less then $10.

As you can see the book is to ‘bridge’ your child from the class they just finished to the grade they will be entering. So the early activities are things they are familiar with and the book then gets harder as they go farther. The back is usually full of flash cards for spelling, math facts, vocabulary…anything that they are working on for those assigned grades. The book is divided into sections and then days. So your child can easily do a day at a time, or more if it’s easier and they finish quickly. There are even stickers in the back if you decide to review their work when they’re complete.

My kids have always gotten excited when their books arrive and enjoy doing them, at least for the first few weeks! πŸ˜‚

I let everyone pick out a small basket or bin at the dollar store to keep in the kitchen for the summer. They each put their Bridge book, whatever book they’re reading, a devotional and anything else in there that they plan to work on daily throughout the summer.

This year my husband ordered for our Kindergartener through her subscription to High Five magazine. So hers was a bit pricier but she got a bunch of other fun books thrown in!

And being that my oldest will be 13 in a few short weeks 😱 and did amazing in her first year of middle school, I let her off the hook this year. But instead we’ve propositioned her with a Reading Challenge! She loves to read but sometimes there’s too many distractions, so we’re offering a little reward for every book she completes this summer.

I wish someone would reward me for every book I finish! πŸ“š

~Elena πŸ’–

Family

What kind of life do you want?

This past weekend we used our living room fireplace three nights in a row. You might not see how that’s a big deal but it actually is for us. We moved in to the house we currently live in 3 years ago. The first year I don’t know if we used our fireplace more than twice that winter. Our first summer in our new house and we may not have eaten on our patio or used the fire pit more than once. Instead we were constantly going here and there, eating at restaurants with friends, at peoples houses, parties, get togethers etc. If you know anything about me you know that I’m a homebody. I rarely drive more than 15 minutes from home and I will avoid going out of my house as much as I can. But we were being social, not wanting to say no to things or people and life was chaotic. Life is chaotic enough with three kids, sports, after school activities, religion, work, meetings, etc. but this was a whole different dimension added.

At some point we reflected on our first year in our new house and realized it wasn’t spent the way we would’ve liked it to be. We had wished we had more family dinners on the patio, more fires and marshmallows, more watching family movies on the couch by the fire…so we made a conscious decision to do better. We’ve put more time in to our family, ourselves and our home…and oh my goodness it’s been so rewarding and has had such a domino effect on so many aspects of our lives!

At one time we talked about making our basement more suitable for entertaining but instead we did a 360 and made ourselves a home workout room. And it’s used daily!! My husband, myself and all 3 kids are down there pretty much every day. When the kids aren’t working out with us, they’re playing ping pong, doing gymnastics or basketball while we workout.

Since we aren’t eating out as much and socializing with food & alcohol we are eating so much healthier, in better shape and no doubt saving money. We’ve done more movies with the kids, family reading hour- where we all sit together and read (my favorite πŸ™‹πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ), family games, hikes and so many other family activities. Life has totally changed, so many memories made and heaven knows these kids won’t always want to be in our company.

I saw this post shared on Instagram the other day:

It really made me think about the choices we’ve made. It’s so very true.

What kind of life do you want?

Don’t worry about pleasing others. Don’t feel bad about saying no to things. You’re not living for others. One of my biggest issues is that it’s always been hard for me to say no to people, well I officially quit that!

This past weekend we had 3 fires! I fell asleep on my couch reading by the fire! I’m pretty sure I haven’t done that in at least ten years….possibly more. 😳🀣

~Elena πŸ’–

Family

Elf on The Shelf πŸŽ„

I’m sure many of you, like at my house, have embraced the idea of The Elf on The Shelf. We got our elf years ago when my two oldest were babies and he’s continued to visit us every year,  even finding us when we moved over a thousand miles! Now I have a twelve year old non-believer/helper, a 9 year old who possibly believes or just plays along for the presents, and a 5 year old who just eats it all up. The excitement on her face alone every morning when she finds that little rascal is priceless. And like us you probably dread the cold, late night struggle to get out of bed and tend to said elf. At our house it’s a daunting task since we also have about  701 lights and decorations that need to be turned off or unplugged. So we usually doze off, and after getting up to take care of all of it there is no chance of a quick slumber. Hence the reason I’ve been exhausted when the 6am alarm goes off …..but it is what it is!

So back to the elf. I was under the pretense that the little guy (or girl now) was supposed to come to my house, see if my kids are being naughty or nice and fly back to Santa to report. The whole overall goal being to promote good behavior. And just to clarify I did check the book that came with our elf Hermie (yep the kids named him so not very original, but can you guess what movie it’s from??) and also double checked the official Elf on The Shelf website….

I’m all about promoting good behavior! With a very vocal tween, an only boy with severe middle child syndrome, and the sweetest little angel face wild child….. the bickering is out of control. And some days I couldn’t pay them to listen to me or do a darn thing I ask seventy five times. So Hermie flies at night only to return to some unusual hiding spot sometimes bringing a note and/or little surprises to reward good behavior. Seems like the original intent and makes sense to me.

Some of ya’ll though…..I’m baffled. I see elves making crazy messes in kitchens, writing on mirrors, pooping chocolate chips, drinking alcohol, tying up other toys and all kinds of craziness. Did you get your elf at a pawn shop or straight out of a detention center? LOL! I mean it’s cute and all, I often find myself laughing at the thought & creativity so keep sharing. Seems like you’re really having fun with it. But I can’t imagine finding the elf pooping on the kitchen counter is going to promote good behavior, so I’m gonna refrain.  I’m all about being playful and having fun, to each his own. But if I wake up to find elf turds across my kitchen counter, Hermie will have a one way ticket on the Polar Express!! πŸš‚

~Elena πŸŽ„

Faith, Family

Signs

I’m not sure if it’s because it’s the holiday season or it’s a Monday, but I found myself super emotional this morning watching the news. I had it on early this morning in the kitchen while I was making the kids lunches and starting the day. All the memories shared and tributes to the late President George H. W. Bush really brought me to tears. First and foremost he was such an exceptional man, President, husband, father, entrepreneur, etc. Then to listen to his friends and family share his final few days and moments is really just amazing. The way he interacted with family seemingly knowing these would be his last moments with them. His last words were spoken to his son President George W. in which they both said I love you to one another and that they would see each-other on the other side….oh my goodness I cried like a baby!

Losing a loved one is hard no matter what the circumstances, no doubt! And I think it’s safe to assume losing a parent is no different, difficult across the board whatever the age of the child or parent. But how amazing for the Bush family to be able to love him in the flesh for so many years! I mean 94 is pretty remarkable. He was here to watch not only his children, but also many of his grandchildren grow their families.

So of course I get emotional and a little sorry for myself having lost my father in my 20s. My children will never get to know first hand what an amazing man he was, although I make sure to share stories and speak of him often.

After my morning cry fest I got myself going and went to run some errands with a heavy heart. I get in the car to leave and when I turn the radio on an older song that reminds me of my dad is playing. When that song ends and a commercial comes on I quickly change the station. And to my surprise the next station is playing yet another song that brings back memories. Shortly after my dad passed away I made a CD of songs that meant something to him and reminded me of him. It was comforting to play them when I was missing him. And now since I got in the car 2 of those songs played in a row! I pulled in to the store I was going to, finished listening to the song and waited for my eyes to dry before going inside.

When I came out of the store and decided to head home my mind was totally clear and I wasn’t even thinking about the morning. I’m about halfway home and realize it’s super quiet in the car so I turn the radio back on. The first song I hear is Alan Jackson, When Daddy Let Me Drive. And then it hit me! I was getting a sign. I’m a firm believer in signs and have been that way my whole life. Signs from God. Signs from loved ones that have passed. Sometimes we can see them but most often it’s not until after some time has passed and we realize wow that happened for a reason! Well my dad taught me how to drive a lawn mower when I was young so I could help with yard work. A few years later my dad taught me how to drive a boat when we moved to a house on the water. And a few years after that at 15 my dad taught me how to drive in his pickup truck. That song has always made me tear up but this time I get it. This was my sign. Today I needed it. My dad will always be with me and someone was making sure I knew it & felt it. So I’m going to keep telling my kids those stories so he will always be with them too and be thankful for the time I did have with him ❣️

~Elena πŸ’–

https://youtu.be/dQe3DKDQRRs

Family

Parenting is hard….

This was a brutal parenting weekend! So much drama, arguing and crying spread out between all 3 of them. Sunday was the icing on the cake though.

I decided to take the 2 girls shoe shopping. This time of year is especially difficult because I only buy things they absolutely need. Otherwise I tell them to put it on their Christmas list. My kids do not get whatever they want and they certainly don’t get something because someone else has it. I don’t care what other people have and for myself I will more likely not get something because everybody has it. But nonetheless their feet won’t stop growing so last years shoes don’t fit. It started out fun and the girls were trying on shoes and strutting around the store laughing. But it took a sudden turn πŸ˜– Wanting one pair turned into 2, then 3 and then the talking back and arguing began. I must’ve given at least a half dozen warnings to get it together or we would leave empty handed. But it’s so hard out in public. You can feel people watching and judging, so I tried to be super patient, understanding and calm. At the same time I’m not one to let my kids act up or talk disrespectfully and then get their way.

At some point I decided we would get the shoes (one pair) but then I would take them away at home to be earned back after some consequences. But in the end I made a spur of the moment decision standing in line to check out. The talking back continued in line and after a final (and way too many) warning, I dropped the shoes and walked out the door. I had one kid behind me crying and one behind me still running her mouth. Oh my goodness it was a hard moment and I had to fight back my own tears. Driving home I went back and forth in my head if I had made the right decision, should we go back, should we go somewhere else so we can still get shoes, should I continue with the other errands I had…but we did none of those. I drove home with one angry kid and one sad kid, both really upset with me.

There’s no way to prepare for these parenting moments. There’s no manual with laid out scenarios and how to handle them. I think I made the right decision. It was hard and broke my heart but later on we talked it over. One realized her behavior was not ok and the other one knows it wasn’t her fault but also saw how our behavior even affects those around us and there are consequences.

Parenting is hard! πŸ˜”

~Elena

Family, Uncategorized

The grass is always greener!

My two girls are about 7 years apart in age and very different in SO many ways. My oldest is chatty, anxious and emotional while my youngest is super sensitive but fairly independent and always observing even when you don’t think she’s paying attention. Besides their attributes they have many differences in their physical appearances with the most obvious being their hair.

They both have dirty blonde hair that gets pretty light in the summer. My big girl (Bella) has always had this amazing hair and was complimented even when she was a baby. Her hair is crazy thick with beachy waves and gets a bit frizzy with the weather. I like to call it mermaid hair, but she can’t stand it often crying that it’s too thick and hard to clean. My little girl (Livi) has super thin, stick straight hair. The funny thing is they both want what the other has!! My oldest is always upset that her braids aren’t thin like her sisters and her ponytail doesn’t hang straight. My little one wants to know if her hair is as long as her sisters or if she has curls like her sister. The other night Bella did her sisters hair in 2 cute little buns and then asked if I could do the same for her. After I did them she took them out pretty quick because they were so heavy and started to give her a headache. Her little sister slept in hers. When she woke up and took them out the first thing she said was ‘is my hair curly like Bella’s now?’πŸ’–

We all do this!! I know I’m guilty. I’ve been paying upwards of $200 at times just to have dirty blonde hair which God finally gave me twiceπŸ‘§πŸΌπŸ‘§πŸΌ…He just didn’t give it to me on my own head πŸ˜‚ I bring pictures of celebrities and random people on Pinterest to my hair appointments because I want their hair. We see something someone has and we want it. I’m trying to teach my girls to not only be happy with what God gave them but also be happy for others for what God has given them too.

My girls are both beautiful in their own ways and I want them to celebrate others instead of being envious. This doesn’t apply only to physical appearances or attributes, but also successes in life. There’s nothing better than having a friend be happy for you and celebrate with you instead of being envious or jealous of your successes. We should be there to congratulate and cheer each other on and this starts with us as role models. Go out of your way to compliment and cheer others on. Our kids are always watching what we say and do. We certainly know this when we slip up and say a bad word then hear our 5 year old say it a day later. Like the other day when my littlest told her brother ‘you’re pissing me off’…I may have said that once or twice 😳🀣

I’m a firm believer of what you put out there comes back to you so let’s make sure it’s good stuff!! πŸ’–

~Elena

Family

Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford Review

So Elena had this bright idea that we start reading books and giving our review on them. To be honest I wasn’t much of a reader before we became friends but now I’m reading all the time. So anyways, she picked this book for me to read because I assume she felt I was distracted by my phone …..but little did she know it doesn’t take much for me to be distracted. Squirrel!!! πŸ˜‚ So here goes nothing on my first ever book review.

Stafford gives a 12 step by step guide to becoming a hands free mama. Whether it is putting down your phone, throwing away your to-do list, or letting go of perfection. She helps us to grasp what really matters.

The 12 steps are:

Awareness

Connectedness

Deliberateness

Presentness

Serenity

Clarity

Simplification

Acceptance

Authenticity

Forgiveness

Compassion

Gratefulness

For each step she gives you her personal stories that helped on her journey to becoming hands free. At the end of each chapter she has a ‘Hands Free Reflection’ that offers a way to incorporate each action into your life. The book is formatted for a year long transformation, allowing you a month to put each step in action.

As moms we have enough on our plates with our regular responsibilities. Then we want to help at school parties, help at church events, help with moms club, help at sporting events, because we want to be involved in our kids lives. But it’s those events that end up taking our time and attention off of them. We get so wrapped up in the meetings to plan the events, baking for the events, and making every detail perfect that we have no time to enjoy special moments with our family.

This book will help you realize that you need to slow down, do less, be less involved and live in the moment. Life goes by fast and time will pass you by. So grasp what matters by letting go of what doesn’t.

For so many years I would be busy doing and never slowing down enough to give my kids my undivided attention. They are always asking me to watch them do something or can I do something with them, and my answer was usually ‘in a minute’. And as embarrassed as I am to admit it, I never had intentions of really doing what they asked me to do. So now I find myself watching tv shows that I can’t stand and them teaching dances that I’ll never be able to do. As bad as I want to be able to do the darn floss, I know it’s not in the cards for me! Lol, but it’s worth every laugh and smile by being a part of their fun.

Since I read the whole book to review, now I’m going back and doing each step for a month. So maybe a year from now I’ll be able to update you on my journey.

If you need to discover the power, joy, and love of living “Hands Free” this is the book for you!

-Erin