Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Back to School

This may seem premature.  Back to School may be farther off for some, but for us it’s August 20th.  Which means the calendar is making me feel the crunch.

Big time.

This is compacted by the fact I am back to work, which leaves me less time to fart around Target grabbing supplies.  It leaves me less time to clean out old clothes my kids don’t wear, and less time to organize a back to school homework area that only works the first week of school. 

Before I worked, I had a habit of making everything into an event.  I was an all-day event maker.  It was fabulous.  I watched babies, wiped sticky fingers and dreamed up something to do every day that would keep me productive.  These days it’s grab and go and do what is practical.  Sometimes my kids remember when they came home to homemade cookies, and my mom just mentioned all the homemade cinnamon bread I used to make.

Loaf after loaf of cinnamon swirl heaven.

I’ve promised myself to get back into the kitchen more often, especially now that I’m used to working.  Although this month I’m working on making time for our “back to school” tradition.  I always, always take my children one at a time for their back to school shopping.  With four kids, a one on one outing is a big deal.  Rarely does one of my kids get to shop alone with mom for a few hours.  It’s a treat to have the undivided attention.  I still smile remembering the outing I realized my younger son loved shopping with me.

He was eight, and he relished it.  He asked my opinion about everything he picked out.  He told me he needed everything right down to new undies.  And he even debated with me on which pattern he should choose.  That was the year we moved to Pennsylvania, and life was chaotic.  Until that summer I took the kids in groups for their items.  If I could get an afternoon with one of them I would, but it was rare.  I was usually with all of them, or in two groups on two different days.  But that summer, I knew my kids needed the time.  We all needed to recharge and slow down.   

I took my kids, one at a time, for everything they needed.  It was an event, a real one.  We went for new clothes, shoes and supplies for school.  We got lunch and discussed the summer.  We talked about the next year and all their friends.  Those back to school shopping trips have become one of my favorite things to do with my kids.

They open up; they feel important.  Instead of wanting to pull my hair out with four kids pulling me in different directions, I’m focused on one.  And it means more than I ever realized before I made the time to do it.

I knew one on one time was important for kids.  What I didn’t realize was how important it was for me.  It’s my time to slow down, listen and reconnect with my kids.

I know that up until my last baby goes to college, even if they fight me on it, I will drag them out that door every August.  Right now I’m comforted by the fact they not only willingly go with me, but they want to.  They look forward to it, and they know they will go back to school with what they need. 

So many needs met in one simple trip.  A win-win-win.

Cheers all, it’s almost (gasp) August.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Just Existing

Before I was off for a portion of the summer, I made a mental "to do" list.  I set my sights high with goals like cleaning closets, making myself an eye appointment, getting the kids to the dentist, getting my daughter's back brace adjusted and tackling back to school shopping. I wanted to achieve all of these goals before I headed back into work for the new school year.

I start Thursday.

This week I have to clean the closets, make myself (and get to) an eye appointment and get back to school shopping done.  I did get all of my kids to the dentist.  I even threw in an annual physical for my oldest to feel like a real overachiver.  The back brace adjustment has been handed off to Hubby (cringe).  Maybe it's time he meet the orthodics department anyway.

Front Desk Judy is a doll.

I remember summers that lasted, what seemed like, forever. The days were hot and sticky and slow.  Lightening bugs were out, bedtimes were nonexistent, and by the time I went shopping for binders I couldn't wait to get back to in the classroom.

Even as a parent, I had many summers that dragged on.  It was wonderful.  I remember being ready to send the kids to school.  August crawled along; swimming was old news and camps were long over.  I felt like I had made the most of summer vacation.  I felt fulfilled.

It's so much easier to say goodbye to summer when you feel fulfilled.

I'm realizing when there is a time limit on your summer it really cruises along.  I can't even remember what I did these past 6 weeks (other than vacation).  I just existed.  Maybe that's all I needed after my first year working full time since I had my first baby fourteen years ago.

I needed a good few weeks to just exist.  To just be.  Drive the kids, make lunches, stop at Sheetz and see friends.  Swim, play, clean and hang laundry.

It's been good.  It's been refreshing.  And this week I'm going to crush what I can of that "to do" list.

And when I'm not "to do-ing," I'll be existing.  Just sitting on my back deck, soaking up the sun.

We need it every now and again.  Even when the "to do" list is waiting...we need to just be.  It's so good for the soul. 

Cheers Mamas!  

Monday, July 20, 2015

What I've Learned: My 5 Parenting Tips

I don't often write posts about how to raise kids, because most of us are doing the best we can with what we're given.  I'm no expert, and I don't feel like I have authority to tell anyone how to discipline, encourage or support their children. What works for some may not work for others.

That being said, there are a few guidelines I have always followed.  I've discovered a few tricks that worked wonders on my kids.  I have four, and I remember the glaze-y eyed baby and toddler days when I was so exhausted I couldn't see straight.

It's tough, and every mom is different.  Our patience levels vary, our need for time away is not the same.  When my first baby was born, I was by the book with feeding and sleep schedules.  I was strict and I followed all the "rules." With my second, I was more lax.  My third?  Survival mode.  Fourth?  Toss her in the carseat and off we go.

All of my kids were born under different circumstances.  But all of them were held to the same expectations.  I also used the same techniques to get them to behave outside the home.  And it worked like a charm.

I am no expert, my kids get into trouble and make bad choices.  But I have always been able to take them to the store, to the mall, to a ball game or a party.  The key to my sanity was training them to do what I wanted, not bending myself around what they wanted.

They're all still here, they're all happy, and so far no one hates my guts.  One day I may realize I didn't know squat, but so far I've made out pretty well on the parenting thing.

1.  Sleep is important.  Food is equally important.  If you are looking for an annoying, patience trying outing bring your kids to the store hungry and right before naptime.  I never (if I could help it) went anywhere when it was time to lay down.  Kids need consistency, parents do too.  Even if your kids refuse a nap, "quiet time" is mandatory.

Three meals a day, and two snacks in between with a nap after lunch was my regime.  Errands were after breakfast, we were home in the afternoons for naps.  Every single day.

There is nothing more difficult than wrangling a tantrum throwing toddler while grabbing milk at the grocery store.  Save yourself the headache and stick to a schedule.  Ever notice how kids love to watch the same shows over and over and over again?  They like to know what is next.

The same schedule every day works wonders.

2.  Tell your children what is expected of them before they leave the car.  If we were going to the grocery store, I would park and announce to all tiny ears, "We are here for _______.  We are NOT buying anything other than _______.  NO ONE WALKS (see #3). Does everyone understand? "

My kids went into every store knowing exactly what was about to go down.  There were no surprises.  Occasionally they were allowed to pick a candy at the register.  This was always a last minute treat, because if I announced it beforehand they would ask every few seconds we were in the store.

3. No one walks.  Do yourself a favor and make this rule mandatory.  For some of you it's too late; for those of you who are pregnant or your babies are in carseats, I beg you to follow this one simple rule.  It's for safety and for sanity.

No one walks.  All kids small enough to ride in the cart ride.  If you have a stroller use it.  Life is so much easier when kids are restrained.  They can't touch things, no one will steal them and they can't walk off without you.

Once your kids know they ride, it's not a battle.  I promise.

For kids who walk?  If you can't touch the cart, stroller or someone in the group you are too far away.  Every so often stop and ask if your child can touch you.  It's a good reminder they need to walk close.

4.  Bring drinks and snacks.  Everywhere.  Do not leave your house without a juice pouch, sip cup, bottle of water or other child friendly beverage.  Toss a snack in your purse too.  Even if you are going to the post office and you just had lunch I can promise someone will complain they are thirsty.

I know this from experience.

If you are hoping your kids will behave for a long while?  Bring games, drinks and even more snacks.  Parenting is about being prepared. The more prepared you are the less chaos you will experience.

5.  Manners are mandatory.  If I ask my teenager if he wants a pop tart and his answer is "no" I immediately correct him with "no thank you."  Sometimes I correct my kids a hundred times a day. Sometimes very few.  The key is constantly correcting them.

If you want anything you say "please."  If you don't want something you say "no thank you."  My kids can be little poop stains but they know how to speak politely.  This was a rule from the day they could understand how to ask for something.

I also remind my kids not to be annoying.  This may sound like a strange one, but I have always stuck to my guns.  I hate noise, which seems odd considering I have a big family.  But if someone is loud, I tell them I'm right next to them.  No need to yell.  If someone is making an annoying noise just to hear themselves?  I tell them it's annoying.  I want my kids to understand how to be respectful in other people's space.

Don't stand so close someone can feel your breath.  Don't make noise for no reason.  If you want to run and yell get outside. I want my kids to be welcome in other people's homes, and teaching them what is and is not "appropriate" is important to me. Some parents are much more lax in this arena, I just know what I need in order to feel like I'm not losing my marbles.

Don't get me wrong, my kids play and make noise.  They laugh and we have fun.  I just pump the brakes on running through the house hitting eachother with light sabers.  

I'm not a professional child raiser, and I raise my brow to anyone who claims to be.  We are all climbing the same mountain, and there are many ways to the top.  These five basic guidelines kept me sane and enabled me the freedom to go to the store in peace.  

Yes there were days my kids didn't behave.  I still have those days.  But with consistency and a sense of humor I'm still trucking.  My kids are happy, my days are harmonious and my kids know not to bang and make noise in the house. 


Happy Monday all!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The County Fair

We are smack dab in the middle of the dog days of summer.  We are back from vacation and settling into our home routine.  It's hot, sticky and today we did just about nothing until 4pm.

And then we went to the county fair.

We usually only go to this particular fair, because fairs cost a lot of money (x4 kids) and this fair is close. Tonight we also had another reason to hit up the Ferris Wheel scene; a close friend was making his debut in the Junior Demolition Derby.

I'm from New Jersey, and my first year in central Pennsylvania was an adjustment.  More men wear workboots than business suits.  There is less eight to five and more shiftwork.  Cows outnumber deer (at least by the looks of it) and Amish buggies pepper the roads.  It's more laid back and I must admit the adjustment was easy.  

The first year we went to the county fair I felt like I was in Charlotte's Web.  I had never seen the animals and the ribbons and the kids in cowboy boots.  My kids went from friends having Air Jordans to friends showing their pigs at the fair.  

It's such a different world.

Tonight we walked through the barns and buildings with the winning animals, rode some rides and attended our first derby.  Our friends built their son's car, as with every other teenager entered into the competition. All I could think about what how different this world is compared to the world I grew up in, and I'm so blessed to experience both.  Our friend's son won the derby, and our entire section was jumping and screaming.  There is such a sense of community among our friends and tonight the support we have for each other was evident.

There was also such a sense of pride among the participants.  These boys and girls built their cars from junkyard scrap, and to watch the competition was to feel all the work everyone puts into this one evening.

I love "firsts," and tonight was one that we'll remember for a long time.  Every time I experience something new I feel like I lived just a little bit more that day.  I'm also going to bed tonight knowing my kids felt what its like to go out and support a friend.  It wasn't an event they were accustomed to, such as a baseball game.

We went to the fair, bought tickets to the Derby and sat for two hours waiting for our friend to drive his car into the competition circle.  And we loved every minute of it.

I'm wishing everyone something new this week, no matter how small.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


I'm on vacation.  For the past few days I've been off the grid.  Not in a literal sense, but in a functioning sense.

Does that even make sense?

This week is all a out recharging.  I'll be back soon.  I promise.  Until I am, I'm feeling like this...

Cheers!  Have a wonderful week!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Homemade Meatballs

I'm reposting.  It happens.  Today my repost is meatballs. 

Meatballs are perfect for my circus for three reasons:

1.  Everyone eats them without complaint.  That is reason enough but I will continue.
2.  Leftovers.  Leftovers.  Leftovers.
3.  Tomorrow when I grab rolls those leftovers are now Meatball Subs.  Score!

As with most of my dinner recipes, these are easy, fast, and delicious.  No time for serious prep.  No time for homemade tomato sauce.  When I do have time I will be sure to conquer homemade sauce.  It's on my "to do", along with everything else.

Mommyhood Meatballs (I double this to ensure leftovers)

1 lb lean ground beef
1 and 1/2 c. bread crumbs
1 egg
chopped parsley (about 1 tsp)
Sprinkle salt and pepper
Squeeze kethcup
Sprinkle garlic
Splash milk

Mix with hands until well combined.  Shape into meatballs.

On stove, over low heat, heat 2 jars tomato sauce in large saucepan.  I use Rinaldi Tomato and Basil Sauce.  Another great choice is Aunt Millie's Marinara.

Drop meatballs in sauce and simmer on low, covered, for 45 minutes.  Stir gently (meatballs will break easily) occasionally until cooked through.

I start spaghetti when the meatballs are a few minutes from finished.  I let the meatballs sit in sauce and cool just a bit.  Once spaghetti is cooked and drained I return it to pan, drop 2 tablespoons butter and mix until melted.  Serve buttered spaghetti on plate and top with meatballs and extra sauce. 

This dinner satisfied a hungry family of six, and tomorrow Hubby gets a meatball sub.

Ah, the thrill of a happily fed family and leftovers in the's the little things.

Have a fabulous week!