Our First Summer Camp Experience

I’ll admit, I was never a big fan of summer camps. I didn’t go to one as a kid because my grandmother watched me while my parents worked. As a parent myself, I’ve always been around during the summer so I didn’t necessarily need a camp for childcare. I work from home, so in the summer I can usually manage things enough to get my jobs done…usually. My solution is waiting for my kids to go to sleep to get things done, kind of like right now as I’m writing this.

But, this summer, a one-week soccer camp peaked our interest. Well, really my interest and that of my 5-year-old. My 7-year-old wanted no part of it. She was “Camp Mom” all the way and let everyone know it. But, I could tell the idea intrigued my little one because she truly loves the game. Quite frankly, she’s pretty darn good at it for a 5-year-old. But, she wanted her big sister to go along with her. I could tell that wasn’t going to happen.

I sat on the whole camp idea the weeks leading up to the registration. When it came down to saving a few bucks to register early, I needed a final answer. Momma doesn’t play around when there’s money to be saved! My older daughter still wasn’t budging, but my little soccer beast was all in! I was also curious to know more about this camp thing that everyone raves about all the time.

It was all soccer goals and smiles until the first morning. The idea of getting up like it was a school day was anything less than exciting. The fact that it was only for five mornings was my biggest motivator. During the drive there, I could smell hesitation in the air when my little asked her sister if she was sure she didn’t want to come. After a definite “no”, my little knew she was on her own. When we got there she didn’t leave my side for the first few minutes but when I told her I couldn’t stay and would be back in three short hours, she ran off and started to play with the familiar faces she saw.

When those three short hours were over (and I mean short, there’s no way you can get anything done in that time) she as all smiles at pick-up time. During the drive home when I asked her what she did, she gave me a complete rundown of all the skills she learned and the scrimmage that was played. It felt like a win-win all around until she admitted she cried. When she told me it was because she missed me, my heart sank. Did I do the right thing sending her? Should I have kept her home? As much as I felt like the world’s worst mom, I got over it quick! I knew deep down that this was good for her. Besides learning soccer skills, she was also learning how to manage on her own without relying on her big sister. Did I mention the fact that she was pooped everyday and slept like a rock star each night?

As the week progressed, the wake-ups didn’t get any easier, but the drop-offs and pick-ups did. She was having fun and learning new things and meeting new kids. I guess that’s what this camp thing is all about, right? As much as I was a camp skeptic, I can see now why so many kids and parents love it. It sure does keep the kids busy and is a lifesaver during the summer for many working parents.

Who knows, in the future we may trying out different summer camps, but for now it’s still “Camp Mom” for most of the time, and truthfully I’m okay with that!

End of the School Year Checklist for Moms

It’s the end of the school year. You knew it was coming sooner or later. Whether you’re getting ready to send your kids off to camp or preparing “Camp Mom” for the troops there are a few things that need to get done before summer vacation kicks in.

  • End of the Year Teacher Gifts. You may look forward to this as much as teachers look forward to expanding their “best teacher” mug collection. I’ll admit I’ve given a few mugs in my day…and candles, and lotions, and coffee gift cards. It gets boring. As much as every ounce of creativity may have been sucked out of you by all of the projects you’ve helped your kids with this year, try to at least put in a “C” effort for the teacher’s gift. They deserve it for all they put up with through the year. I’ve actually come up with a semi-creative idea that I’m excited about. I’ll share it with you…after I give it!
  • Plan to Keep in Touch with Your Kids’ School Friends…Some of Them. My daughter’s birthday is in the summer. She wants me to start planning her birthday party now so that she can hand out invitations the last day of school. She must have used too many glue sticks this year if she thinks that’s going to happen. I explained to her that’s the joy of having a summer birthday. You don’t have to invite the whole class. That rule goes out the window once the end of June rolls around. I did tell her to get the info of a couple of friends she’d like to invite. We’ll see how that goes. If there are friends your kids want to hang out with over the summer (that you approve of) make an effort to get their info. You never know when you may need to phone a friend.
  • Check out Free Events. If it’s free, it’s for me. That’s my motto. Check out what free events are available for the summer. Many local libraries offer free passes to museums and zoos. Take advantage of these. Make a list and take it out for those days when you hear “Mom, I’m bored”, because you know they’re coming.
  • Pre-summer Cleaning. If you didn’t get around to actual spring cleaning (like me), try some pre-summer cleaning. It’s really the same thing if you think about it. With the kids home, you know your house is going to look like a bomb exploded all summer long. The chances of you giving it a deep clean when the kids are around 24/7 are about as good as you getting front row tickets at a Bon Jovi concert. So clean now, have fun later.
  • Make Your Last Solo Target Run. Moms you know what I’m talking about. Shopping alone at Target has a certain charm to it that you can’t explain unless you’re a mom who’s had to shop at Target with your kids. Those $1 bins turn into $5 bins when you take your kids. It’s inevitable. But, when you shop alone you can look around at all the stuff you really don’t need but end up buying anyway for some reason. It’s a beautiful thing.
  • Pencil in Some Me Time. Let’s face it, summer is wonderful but finding time just for yourself without having the kids around can be a challenge. Before the final school bell rings, try to schedule a mani/pedi or whatever you like to relax. This will help set the tone for the summer. If you can’t tell, this is definitely on my “to-do” list over the next week and a half. That and maybe a massage! If you really want to go crazy, take yourself shopping too! You needed a new pair of sandals, right?
  • Make a Liquor Store Run. Yep, I said it. There are only so many amusement parks, zoos, and playdates you can take over the summer. Momma will need a break so plan ahead. Once the kids finally conk out for the night, you may want to treat yourself to a nice glass of wine. Better yet, send the kids off to grandma’s house and have some friends over for grown-up beverages!

Amid all the camps, playdates, and cotton candy induced carnivals, try to have fun with your kids this summer. As much as we may complain about our kids, we all know they grow up too fast!

My Kids Will Be Doing School Work Over the Summer and I’m Not Sorry

Start the name calling and pouty faces. I’m putting the school work in summer.

Yes, I know it’s going to be 80 plus degrees out and there are sand castles to be built and bikes to ride.

My girls will get to do all that and then some. But, they’re also going to be reading and brushing up on their skills. I’ve been browsing the internet and reading some debates about whether kids should be doing “homework” over the summer. For every yay there’s a nay.

See, I don’t really consider my little plan “homework”. It’s more like “Let’s stay smart so we don’t fall back in September.” I don’t think that makes me a mean mom. I think that makes me a mom who cares about her children’s success and is taking a hands on approach to help them get ahead. Why let them fall victim to the so-called “summer slide” and waste all the progress made over the school year? It just doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t understand why so many parents are still anti-school work over the summer.

What kind of horrid school work am I going to subject my children to this summer? For my soon-to-be Kindergartener, we’ll be practicing writing her letters and numbers as well as her name. Her new school actually sent home a packet of practice sheets to help with the process. While some parents scoffed at it during orientation, I wanted to give the packet a big old bear hug! At least now I don’t have to go looking for sheets to help her. We’ll also be practicing counting and shapes.

For my soon-to-be second grader, we’ll be reading books to keep her skills up to par. We’ll also start working on more reading comprehension so she knows what she’s actually reading. I’m also going to have her brush up on her math so she doesn’t forget the skills and tricks she’s learned over the year.

Before you think I’ll be chaining my kids to the kitchen table for hours on end over the summer, think again. We’ll do these little exercises ten to fifteen minutes a day or every other day. Reading will be done for at least another ten minutes a day. On average, my kids will spend 20 minutes a day doing dreaded school work. I’m going to try to bang it out in the morning so the rest of the day is free. That leaves 23 hours and forty minutes a day to do whatever else they want. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, do you?

Here’s the alternative. I can have them not do any kind of school work all summer. They can go back to school in September and not remember anything they learned. They’ll waste time re-learning things they knew so well. They may even run the risk of falling behind if everyone else is on the express train and they’re stuck making all the local stops. All for what? All in the name of summer fun?

There needs to be a balance. The earlier we teach our kids this coping skill, the better. They need to learn just as there’s time to play over the summer, there’s also time to learn. It’s just like fitting in play time during the school year. It all gets done.

No child ever suffered from reading or practicing some letters over the summer. So, yes, my kids will be doing school work over the summer and I’m not sorry.


Summer Learning Guide

Okay, so summer is here and the kids just want to play. They are done with school and don’t want to see a flash card or worksheet until September…realistically the end of August. But, as a parent, you know they need to continue to read and do “school stuff” at least a little bit to keep their little heads in the game. You really don’t want them to be a victim of the so-called “summer slide”.

So, what’s a momma to do? Well, call me the “mean mom”, but I’m carving out about a half-hour four days a week for a little summer school, if you will. What does this entail?

1. Reading a book– For my older daughter, this means reading a book to me. For my younger daughter, it means reading a book to her. No TV. No electronics. Just us and the books. Sometimes the reading to me part takes a bit longer depending on how many words we need to stretch out. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of times when I just want to shout out the word. But, I control myself and remember that she has to do it if she wants to become a better reader.

2. Summer Packet– This one is just for my soon-to-be first grader. Her school sent home a packet of little learning activities to reinforce some of the Kindergarten lessons. From rhyming words to addition, there is plenty to do here. We’re just taking it page by page.


3. Workbook Bonanza– Okay, so the bargain shopper in me went a little crazy here. I found a great dollar store that had tons of workbooks for pretty much every age group. So I bought a bunch for each of my kids. These are great to freshen up skills already learned as well as to learn some new ones. The best part is that each fab book was only a buck.


4. The “Write” Stuff– My older daughter writes in a summer journal that was sent home while my pre-schooler practices her letters. This way both kids are writing at the same time so no one feels left out.


5. Done in a Flash Card– From sight words to simple math, we love flash cards in my house. This is a quick way to know what your child actually remembers. You can make games out of them by seeing how many they can get right. If you can’t find what you need in a store, you can easily make them yourself with index cards so that you can customize them to your child’s needs.


So, this little curriculum isn’t so bad, right? I mean, it’s not like I’m bombarding my kids. There is still plenty of time for fun.

What do you do to keep your kids learning over the summer?

Parents’ Summer Survival Guide

It’s that time of year. It’s not Christmas. It’s not your child’s birthday. It’s summer. Your kids are out of school. They are home.

All. The. Time.

If you’re a working parent, summer can be a nightmare….trying to find a babysitter, a camp…whatever it takes. If you’re fortunate enough to have the summer off and don’t have to find childcare, then your kids are probably with you 24/7. This can also be a nightmare in its own right. That is, if you let it.

I’m probably in the minority here, but I actually enjoy when my kids are off during the summer. It’s actually easier than all the drama during the school year. I don’t have to do school drop offs and pick-ups. There’s no running to activities and “Soccer Saturdays”. Although these are enjoyable in their own little way, they are exhausting. Anyone else agree? It’s nice to not have to inhale breakfast and rush everyone out the door. It’s refreshing to just be able to breathe a little.

While I don’t have to worry so much about childcare during the summer. I do have to worry about keeping the kids occupied and maintaining my sanity at the same time. I’m here to tell you, it can be done. Seriously.

Here’s a little survival guide:

1. Find Free Activities: Summer is full of free, “tire out your kid” activities. Designate one day (or two) as a beach day. Get the kids involved in packing snacks and toys to make it fun for them. If you can, change your beach location so no one gets bored. Build sandcastles. Pick sea shells. You can even paint them when you get home.


Spend another day at a park. Take a bike ride or nature walk. There are so many free outdoor activities that will keep the kids out of the house and happy. Take advantage of what’s nearby so you’re not shelling out a lot in gas money.

2. Keep ‘Em Learning: We all know it’s called summer break, meaning no school. That doesn’t mean your kids don’t pick up a book or practice letters and numbers until September. Designate a half-hour a day to do school stuff. Whether it’s reading, writing, or math…do something! Check out your local library for summer read programs. Many offer incentives based on the number of books your child reads over the summer. Keep their little minds learning. At least it will keep them occupied for awhile.

3. Teach Them to Tag Sale: This is a great way to clean things up and make some cash. Get some friends to join in and pick a good weekend. Make it fun. Let the kids keep some of the money you make. Your house is getting clean, you’re teaching your kids the value of money, and you’re getting outside. It’s a win-win all around!

4. Discount Movies: We all know you could buy a trip to Europe for the price of going to the movies these days. During the summer, many local theaters offer $1 movies at the theater. Granted, they’re re-releases, but still it’s in the movie theater. This is a great way to catch a movie you and the kids may have missed or re-watch one you really love!

movie tix

5. Just Play: The whole idea of the summer is to relax, isn’t it? Take some time to just play in the yard. Blow bubbles. Run the sprinkler. Draw with chalk. Throw a frisbee. Let kids be kids. Be a kid yourself! You may be surprised at how much fun you’re having and how much less yelling you’re doing.

Don’t forget to carve out some time for yourself. Some time at Grandma’s isn’t going to hurt if you want to have a kid-free meal or get your nails done. It’s all part of keeping your summer sanity!

What do you do to keep it all together during the summer?

Spray or Cream? Which Sunscreen Do You Use?

If you’re like me, you’re a nut about making sure your kids have enough sunscreen on when they’re outside. Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about spray sunscreen not being good for kids. Personally, I was never a fan. I never used the spray on my kids because when I used to use it on myself I ended up looking like a zebra. Not cool. Anyway, here’s the latest word (as of today anyway) on what some say when it comes to kids’ sunscreen.

Which do you prefer?

Review: Baytek RGX Mini Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

IMG_3902As a mom you know packing the bag for the beach or pool is a real pain. It just seems as though there is never enough room for all the towels, toys, and sunscreen. With all the necessary gear, you certainly don’t have room for a bulky speaker so your kids can jam out while building sand castles. That’s why the Baytek RGX Mini Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker is great for outdoor use in the summer.
I charged it overnight and used it by the pool for about six hours before the battery ran out. I did have one issue charging it at first, but then realized it was user error! Oops! Once I figured out I was using the wrong connection to charge it, I was good to go. The speaker is great because it’s so small and doesn’t take up a lot of room! It even has a keychain so you don’t have to put it in your bag if you don’t want to.
It’s so much easier than leaving your phone out and using the speaker from it. The Baytech speaker is certainly louder and is easy to sync with your phone. I would certainly recommend this product to others, especially moms who want to bring along some music for a day out with the kids.
*This is a sponsored post. Baytech supplied me with the speaker for this review.

Summer 2014 Bucket List

With summer officially arriving over the weekend, I was thinking about all the things I would like to accomplish over the next couple of months. Let me rephrase that…thing I’m hoping to accomplish. Beach days, time at the pool, and playing outside are all oodles of fun, but sometimes it’s nice to actually think about either getting things done or doing things you wouldn’t normally do. I know some of the things on my list may sound silly, but I really want to get them done. So here goes…

 1. Read at least two books. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you have two kids with you all the time, it is. I used to read a lot more adult books, but now my reading list doesn’t get past Dr. Seuss and Pete the Cat. Don’t get me wrong, they are both great, but sometimes you just need a little more substance.

2. Organize my closets…for real. Lame, I know. But, it needs to be done. My OCD has taken a back seat since I’ve had kids, but it’s creeping back into play. There just seems like there is so much junk…I mean treasures…to be discovered!

3. Find more things to sell on eBay. See, once I clean out the closets, I know I will find more junk…I mean treasures to sell. I was doing really well with this over the winter and spring, but I’ve gotten a little bit lazy. I know there are a lot of things that could and should be sold. I just need to stop being lazy about it and try to make some money!

4. Plan a girls day, weekend if possible. I’ll take anything I can get. As you get older, everyone’s lives get so much more complicated. Everyone is so busy that it’s hard to find time when everyone can get together. But, sometimes you just need it. Just some time away to finish a conversation, eat a meal in a restaurant while it’s hot, maybe even have two glasses of wine instead of one! Who’s with me?

5. Have at least 2 summer date nights. Kids, work, life…they just all get in the way of having a nice night out with the hubs. It’s great to have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around the latest Doc McStuffins or Dora episode. It’s nice to just reconnect as a couple without  focusing all your energy on the kids.

6. Take the kids to the Bronx Zoo. I don’t know why I’m kinda obsessed with this one. My kids don’t even know what the Bronx Zoo is, but for some reason, I really want to take them. They’ve been to a smaller zoo before and loved it, so I’m sure they will enjoy this trip as well. I think I just really want to go myself since I haven’t been there since I was a little girl.

7. Go to one amusement park. Really, just one. My head and wallet can only manage one. I like them, but in small doses. I’m not one for upside down, throw up your lunch rides. I like to go on a few tame rides, take the kids around, play a couple of games and call it a day. We tried to go to one last year, but it never worked out for some reason. So, we’ll see what happens this year!

I’m sure there are other things I want to get done, but we’ll leave it at seven. I don’t want to get too adventurous and then feel like a failure if I can’t get it all done! I think it’s important to map out things you want to do. Once you see them in print, it makes them more real. Does that make any sense?

So, what do you want to do this summer? Do you have a summer bucket list?