Planning our summer days: The 2015 version of daily activities and chores

Summer vacation is here! As is typical for me, I have been pondering over our summer plans for the past month (maybe even longer). This year I put together a binder to keep track of our summer lists and paperwork and activity calendar.

Daily List: the things that are expected to be done each day. The list may be completed in any order, but the expectation is that the list must be done before any screen time.

  • Personal prayer and scripture study
  • Morning mile
  • Morning things: dressed, hair done, truth teeth, make bed, put away pajamas and any other clothes
  • Straighten your bedroom and put away anything that belongs to you from any room
  • Practice time: piano, typing, reading, or writing
  • Zone cleaning
  • Personal reading (20 minutes +): record book title, author, # of pages in journal
  • Math minute
  • Journal (optional): write about your day, or use a writing prompt

The Details

Morning Mile: Our elementary school has a great fitness program (students come early before school starts to run/walk laps. They earn little foot charms for every 5 miles, and they have a big awards ceremony at the end of the year). All three of my children really got into it this year, and I want to keep the momentum going. We are aiming to do a mile at least 5 days a week: run/walk, bike, or scooter. Exercise is always more fun with friends, so we invited others to join us and keep track of their miles. Once a week we will get together and run laps in our neighborhood, then pass out the foot charms. We are starting next week, and I hope it works out!

Reading: my kids don’t need any extra motivation to read books, so the 20 minute requirement is not difficult. But I really want them to keep a record of what they read for a few reasons: for handwriting practice, and to give me a list to refer back to when searching for new books to read.

Zone cleaning: my children are at an age (10, 7, and 5 yrs) where they can definitely contribute to the cleaning and maintenance of our home, and with a new baby I especially need their help! Currently each child is assigned a zone (living room, kitchen, bathrooms). I made up detailed “How to clean the…” lists for each room, so the children know exactly what is expected. My 10 year old is mostly able to work through the lists on her own. I work with my 7 and 5 year old to teach and give direction. Each child spends 20 minutes a day, and that is enough to keep things looking pretty decent.

Math minute: we don’t want our brains to turn to fluff, so a few minutes solving math problems keeps us smart!

Journal: I would love to instill a habit of journal writing in my children, so we will give this a try. I still need to put together a list of writing prompts.

So these are the things that are expected each day we are at home (except for Sunday). The children also have table jobs (setting plates, cups, or utensils) and after dinner jobs (clear table, sweep floor, empty recycling).

This list doesn’t have to take too much time, although some children will drag it out for hours. We are still making plans for the rest of our days. We will spend a lot of time at the pool, and we will play and craft and experiment and learn and help others!

You can see 2014 summer plans here.

Easter Traditions and Plans: Starting a Holy Week study

Our family just finished a low-key spring break at home, and now it is time to prepare for Easter!

This year I have decided to take another step  to make our Easter a little more focused on the Savior. Inspired by this post, we are going to hold our own “Holy Week”. Starting today we will be reading about the events that took place during the last week of the life of Jesus Christ. We are using the summaries and scriptures that were printed in The Friend in April 2011. To do this I printed off the summary for each day on spring colored cardstock, laminated for durability, and then taped the summary for each day on to one of my kitchen cupboards. As we do the readings each day, we will add a corresponding picture from our Gospel Art Kit. We will do our readings during evening dinner time.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has just released a new Easter campaign on mormon.org: Because He Lives.

“Jesus Christ lived. He walked the Holy Land, working miracles and teaching truth. Then He was crucified. But His death was not the end. Because of His Resurrection, we will live again. Because of His sacrifice, we can rise above sin to experience true joy. Because He lives, we can find His help and healing every day of our lives.”

Here is a lovely new video message which I plan to share with my family today as a start to our Holy Week.

The site also contains a brief summary of each day in the last week of the Savior’s life, which I plan to incorporate in our Holy Week study.

On Easter Sunday we will conclude with this Bible Video: He Is Risen.

I have always struggled a little bit with the idea of Easter baskets and how best to incorporate that into our family. I like the idea I have seen around the web of “Secular Saturday and Sacred Sunday”. In the past I have done a family basket and included things like sidewalk chalk, bubbles, coloring books and stickers. This year I don’t feel like we are really in need of any more stuff, and with a birthday and General Conference this week, I am opting to simplify things a bit.

I found this cute Easter Jelly Bean Prayer at The Idea Room, so this small gift is what my children will wake up to on Easter Sunday.

This year I discovered a very nice picture book called In The Garden, by Caralyn Buehner. It appears that the book is out of print, but I was luckily able to snag a copy from my library. It presents the story of the Atonement in a simple way for children to understand with beautiful illustrations.

In between watching General Conference we will decorate our eggs, and do an egg hunt (some with pictures of Jesus Christ cut out of Ensign magazines, some with coins, and some with candy).

Dinner will be our traditional ham, potatoes, green beans, and rolls, with Angel Food Cake and strawberries and cream to finish things off!

We usually do this Easter FHE lesson (with eggs that are filled with items representing significant events in the atonement and resurrection). We will likely do it the day after Easter this year.

Looking for more ideas?

We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ has a great list of Christ Centered Easter Crafts and Activities. Maybe another year we will try the Easter All Week booklet.

The Chickabug Blog posted a cute bunny and chick fingerprint craft. This would make a fun activity to entertain the little ones as we listen to General Conference.

It’s been awhile since I have prepped any lunchbox notes for my kiddos, and Kiki and Company has a cute Easter Bunny laugh edition.

Colorful books to read in March

March has a lot of great themes to celebrate: Dr. Seuss Day, Pi Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Spring, and sometimes even Easter! I haven’t really found any great St. Patrick’s Day books that I love, so I tend to review our favorite rainbow and color books this month.

Lemons Are Not Red by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Duckie’s Rainbow by Frances Barry

Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd

A Rainbow of My Own by Don Freeman

My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss

White Rabbit’s Color Book by Alan Baker

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Our list hasn’t changed any this year, but check out last year’s post if you want to see images of the above books.

March traditions and plans

February flew by quickly, and I really loved our focus on LOVE for the whole month. Now we are into March and ready for spring. In Florida we are having lovely 80 degree weather this week. Time to take stock of our summer wardrobe and pack up the long-sleeved shirts and jackets (we will likely only need long pants occasionally from here on out).

Here is what we have on our agenda this month:

Celebrate Dr. Seuss Week March 2-7: we will re-read some of our favorite Dr. Seuss books

St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th (see below)

Elementary School International Fair on March 19th: I grew up in Canada, so I volunteered to prepare a booth about this cool country to the north.

Spring Break March 23-27 (see below)

St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is one of those fun little holidays that I like to recognize in a small way. At our house, we always wear green of course, and the children wake up to Lucky Charms cereal for breakfast. This year I think we will dye the milk green. I like to attach this cute printable from Blue Skies Ahead.lucky

A few more ideas I like:

Lunch treat printable (attach a gold candy coin)

Decorate the door with this quote from Spencer W. Kimball (image available from LDS printables)LUCK

New rainbow colored markers with gold candy coin attached “You’re my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” (we need new markers anyway, so this is a useful gift for our house)

I also like this “Getting Lucky” idea for my husband (wink, wink).

Spring Break

With the imminent birth of our fourth child, we have no big plans for travel during Spring Break. We will likely arrange some low-key playdates with friends and work on house projects. We will definitely be visiting a nearby farm for strawberry picking and then make freezer jam!

I am still trying to work through my Project List, but the third trimester of pregnancy (and my swollen feet!) are slowing me down. As a friend on Facebook (who is due the same week I am) said:

2nd trimester=”I can do anything.”

3rd trimester= “No, no you can’t.”

So I will do what I can this month, and focus on growing a baby and maintaining life for the other 4 members of my family.

Looking ahead to April

April has a number of significant events, and preparations will need to be made in March.

April 1st: Birthday for Zach

April 4-5th: General Conference

April 5th: Easter

April 15th: Baby #4 is due

It is a little tricky when General Conference and Easter fall on same weekend, with a birthday very close by. We have special traditions for recognizing all three events, but we don’t have time for everything. So I need to do some planning and figure out what our most important focus will be.

What are your March/April traditions?

Making our Valentines

The main task for this afternoon (once the usual homework, reading, piano practice, and snack time have been completed) is making our valentines. Lately we have preferred to go the homemade route, usually by making use of some cute printable found via Pinterest and attaching something small (there are hundreds ideas available).

Has Valentine’s Day always been so focused on treats and candy? My memories of Valentine’s Day as a child simply involve crafting some type of heart decorated holder, and filling classmates holders with cute little paper notes. But every year my kids are bringing home as much candy as they do on Halloween! And since we still have a large bowl overflowing with Halloween and Christmas candy, I opt to make Valentine cards that are candy-free.

The children and I browsed ideas on Pinterest, then headed to Target to see what we could find. We ended up purchasing the cute little bubble wands ($3 for a pack of 24) for my 10 year old and 7 year old girls to pass out. We will attach them to this cute printable from Simply Modern Mom: I am bubbling with excitement that you are my friend.

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Image via Simply Modern Mom

My four-year-old boy opted for the bouncy ball option (16 for $3). We are going to attach them to this printable from What the Teacher Wants: Have a ball today!

Non Food Valentine Pics3
Image via What the Teacher Wants

Pretty simple and fun!

I thought we were all set, until my daughter asked what we were going to do for teachers this year. Uh….yikes! Time for more browsing. And in the spirit of usefulness and less candy, we are going with hand sanitizer and this printable from Simply Sprout: Spread Love, Not Germs!

Image via Simply Sprout
Image via Simply Sprout

Looking for more ideas? You can check out last year’s Valentine’s here, or scroll through my links below for some of the other options we considered this year.

Glow sticks: here and here

Bugs

Animals

Pencils

100 Clever Valentine’s Sayings paired with small items/treats

February traditions of love

February is a great month. Valentine’s Day provides an added incentive to show love to others, and in our family we make that our focus for the whole month. Here are the ways that we plan to show love this month.

Make valentines for classmates: we prefer simple and handmade (usually involving a printable found on Pinterest) and of the non-food variety. You can check out last years version here.

Simple decorations for our house, involving handmade hearts from the kids and love-themed printable found online.

Give the Family Heart Attack. “I love_________because__________”

Make and decorate sugar cookies (favorite recipe).

Leave love notes for each other, using our red mailbox.

Hearts on the Wall-read about our new tradition of dinner time scriptures and conversation starters here.

Family Home Evening lessons: This year we will focus on loving others, loving God (and how he loves us), loving ourselves, and loving our ancestors.

Play the Heart Healthy game.

Personal Study: Review this wonderful talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “How Do I Love Thee?”

Plan a heart menu for February 14th. Perhaps use heart cookie cutters for pancakes, cheese slices, brownies?? Heart shaped pizza??

Gift giving: I like to give my children a little gift to open on Valentine’s Day. Usually it is a book. Last year I found some heart nightgowns on clearance that were perfect for the girls.

Reading books: You can find our Love booklist here.

Favorite Scriptures about LOVE and HEART (how many can we memorize this month??)

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Matthew 22:37 “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”.

2 Nephi 4:15 “For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them”

Alma 45:7 “Yea, I will keep thy commandments with all my heart”.

Love books to read in February

In February we like to read books about love and hearts. I think the favorites at our house would have to be I Love You, Stinky Face and My Heart is Like a Zoo. Here is what we are reading this month:

I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt

Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

The I LOVE YOU Book by Todd Parr

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

The Day it Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond

You Are My I Love You by Maryann K. Cusimano

Kisses by Nanda Roep & Marijke ten Cate

My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall

Lilly’s Chocolate Heart by Kevin Henkes

You can also check out love books from years past: 2013 and 2009.

Traditions for Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day (February 2nd is just around the corner) is a funny little day, but it is one that we recognize in a small way in our family. My children love the cute edible groundhogs, and they request this every year.

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I like this little rhyme-maybe we will sing it as we eat our groundhog???

(sung to the tune of I’m a Little Teapot)
I’m a little groundhog, furry and brown.
When winter comes, I sleep underground.
I’m curled up, as cozy as can be.
When it’s spring please wake me up!

Groundhog Day Reading List

Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft

Geoffrey Groundhog Predicts the Weather by Bruce Koscielniak

Gregory’s Shadow by Don Freeman

Birthday Traditions

Celebrating a birthday is the perfect way to show a loved one that you care about them. In our family, we show love on their special day in the following ways:

  • Birthday child gets to pick the dinner menu for the evening, including dessert (which is not always a cake). They get their dinner on the special blue plate used to honor special occasions.
  • When the children are younger, we have usually planned a family outing such as a trip to the zoo. Once the children reach school age they usually prefer a party with friends. These are usually fairly simple affairs, more along the lines of a “playdate with a theme”. Sometimes the parties have been family events where we invite 2-3 families to celebrate with us (mainly so we have someone to share the cake with!) and the children just play.
  • Telling of the child’s birth story (my children love to hear birth stories and often request this at other times throughout the year).
  • A photo shoot, usually outdoors with Dad as the photographer.
  • A handprint record: paint the child’s hand and place on a sheet of cardstock. This has mostly died out by the time the child starts school, but it is fun to have a record of their itty-bitty hand sizes.
  • A few gifts from parents, one of which is always a book.

Some new traditions I would like to start:

  • “__ Things We Love About You” list. As a family write 5 things or 7 things or 35 things (depending on their year) that we love about the birthday person. Make a large poster to hang on their bedroom door, and make a small version that can be included in their memory box.
  • Take a photo of the birthday child with mom and dad on either side, kissing their cheeks. Take a photo with siblings (we have done been doing this sporadically over the years, but I want to be more consistent).
  • Conduct a birthday interview, like this or this.  I have done this some, but I need to develop a template and print it off so it is ready to go every year.

Other fun ideas:

  • Hang a balloon from the ceiling for each year with $1 bill inside (source). Maybe start this at age 10 for our family???
  • Wrap their birthday lunch in birthday gift wrap.

Birthday Themes we have done in the past:

  • 1 year old: birthday cake with immediate family (A, L, Z)
  • 2 year old: invite one other family to join us for a theme cake (snowman-A, frog-L, Cars cupcakes-Z)
  • 3 year old: Bug party with friends at the playground (A), H is for Happy preschool party (L), cupcakes with friends at the playground (Z)
  • 4 year old: Family party (A), Tangled-Princess (L), Best buddy party (Z)
  • 5 year old: Fancy Nancy theme (A), family party (L)
  • 6 year old: Pretty Pink (A), Butterfly Fest and family party (L)
  • 7 year old: Tangled-Princess (A), Horse theme (L)
  • 8 year old: Family party (A)
  • 9 year old: Favorite things–paper dolls, books, Lego (A)

How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?

Traditions and plans for January

After a wonderful holiday season, January is the month for inspiring reflection in many areas. While I firmly believe that resolutions can be made at any time, there is something about a new year that inspires me to really think about things and get moving. It is usually the month that I am the most productive on my Project List (which I talked about yesterday).

This month I am also working on some trouble areas in my home. Purging and rearranging office and craft supplies is at the top of the list. I also need to spend some time in my girls closet (the current drop space for anything that doesn’t have a home), and take stock of what we have and need for baby boy items.

Our family celebrates two birthdays in January. My birthday is usually a low-key event, which is fine with me. I am happy with dinner at a restaurant, and a cheesecake for dessert. I usually choose a no-bake jello cheesecake mix from a box, which is inexpensive and tasty.

We also celebrate Anwyn’s birthday in January. She was born on Christmas Day, and we were convinced pretty quickly that celebrating a birthday on Christmas Day is not the best idea. Who wants to eat birthday cake on Christmas Day????? So now on December 25th we will tell her Happy Birthday, but January 25th is really her special day. She gets to pick the dinner that night, and that is when we will do gifts and parties, etc.

This year she is reaching the double-digit milestone for her birthday. It seems like we should do something significant this year, but I am not sure what. Perhaps a giant list of  “10 things we love about you” posted on her bedroom door? We are contemplating a decathlon themed party–10  stations/games/along the lines of minute-to-win-it?? I suggested ice cream with 10 kinds of toppings but she didn’t like that idea. I would love to hear your ideas for celebrating a double-digit birthday.

Reading books: You can find our snowy book list here.

Family Home Evening: this month we are focusing on our family theme for 2015, found in Helaman 5:12.

What traditions and plans do you have for January?