Summer Space Invaders

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Summer is here! The space invaders are taking over the house!

For those of us working parents fortunate enough to work from home, our home offices become an oasis of sorts. It's our own personal bubble of productivity that allows us to work on par with colleagues at traditional desk jobs without having to make a daily commute. Some of us have spent time and money outfitting our spaces with all the tools and aesthetics necessary to ensure our home office leaves us cranking out nothing but our best work. Or maybe you’re 2015-04-23 20.01.34-1like me and enjoy spreading out on the dining room table. Either way, it’s quiet and peaceful…..

And then summer hits and those home offices inevitably get invaded by "the littles" who are no longer contained in a classroom during office hours and are chock full of pent-up summer energy and excitement.

What do we do? Our oasis has been compromised, and we have deadlines, managers, co-workers, and clients who may be unsympathetic to our new summer officemates. Let’s face it…summer can get very expensive very quickly with babysitters, nannies, and day care if we’re not careful.

Now it would be SO easy to plop our kiddos in front of the TV, iPad, or wii for the duration of summer OR go borderline manic trying to create presentations and ice cream sandwiches simultaneously. Believe me! I know! Sooooo, we have a few tips and tricks we've picked up along the way that we hope leave both you and your children soaking in the summertime fun.

Incredible Camps! 

Summer and camp are like peanut butter and jelly…..they just go together. Our children are fresh out of an organized classroom environment, so a structured summer camp day will be a 2014-06-08 15.52.50mild transition for them. There are numerous summer camp options available, from local clubs to weeklong sleep-away camps.

We love Pine Cove in Tyler, Texas and recommend it any time we can. Jenna is going for her fourth time this summer for their seven night camper experience with theme nights, swimming, bible study, horses, etc. She LOVES it…..believe me it is still tough to leave her there each time so use my tactic of drop and go as quickly as possible. Don’t hover. It makes us look desperate and uncool to the tweeners. ;-) This year Jonah can even get in on the Pine Cove action at their Camp in the City program, which brings camp to us in a day only format. He can’t wait!

We also strongly recommend checking out what Vacation Bible School (VBS) options churches may have. Sign them up at our home churches…..and then check out what other churches in the area are offering. Who says they can’t do four different VBS programs?! They are very inexpensive, fantastic curriculum, and safe.

2014-06-10 19.58.22-1Going to a summer camp gives our children the opportunity to meet new people and experience new things instead of sitting around the house twiddling their thumbs and proclaiming their boredom every five minutes. It also gives us a set number of hours a day to dedicate to getting through as much of our office checklist as possible. If our camp schedule is steady enough, we can even communicate to our clients that our office hours have shifted slightly for the summer and what specific hours we ARE completely available during each day.

Help!

It may be a little bit of a blow to my ego, but I admit I need help.

There is no use listening to that condemning voice in my ear that says, “You should be able to work and take care of your kids at the same time.” BUT Mommy Guilt doesn’t help anyone and so I have banished that voice! I am NOT supermom. We are using our gifts in the workplace 2014-06-23 12.03.33AND providing for our families, which means we are doing something that shows them we love them. And I’ve always been very honest…..if I were a stay at home mom, I would be fired!

So, having a relative, friend, or babysitter step in to help does not mean we love our children any less and believe me, they know that. They'll also LOVE getting to hang around someone different! Mine do!

Inexpensive Help! Option: Mother’s Helper

If going with a babysitter or caregiver, we suggest trying a different twist…..a "mommy helper.” This helper could be a middle school age neighbor that comes and occupies the children while we are still THERE working in our home offices. My children love it when their “big kid friend” comes over to play. She comes to my house with a binder of ideas, does crafts, board games, and plays outside with the children. It is just an overall joy for everyone. Whenever I announce she's coming, I receive raucous applause and excitement!

Free Help! Option 1: Relatives

If you are fortunate enough to live near relatives who are able and willing to either come hang out with the children or keep them at their home for a few hours, take them up on the offer! Not only does it help you, but your children will also get the priceless opportunity to spend quality time with relatives and build lasting memories. I have a friend who has arranged a system with her sister-in-law, which allows them to switch off working and caring for each other’s kids during the summer. Cousin time…bam!  We do not have ANY family that leaves near us and it is one of my biggest challenges.

Free Help! Option 2: Co-op

2015-05-03 17.29.27-1If you are well-connected with parents of kids the same ages as your kids, consider a child care co-op. Team up with like-minded moms and trade time taking care of the kids while the others work. It’s important to set expectations up front regarding time frames, cost of activities, emergency situations, and behavior management. Your children will benefit from the variety of activities planned by different parents, and you might just make a new heart-friend. Use your office tools to organize it…..email, Google docs, SignUp Genius, and various Calendar apps are all great ways to get and keep the Co-op organized.

Free Help! Option 3: Trading Services

Think of the people you know who might be willing to trade services. Be creative! I know a mom who does accounting for a business in trade for her kids to attend classes and camps for free. How about a college student who will drive your kids back and forth from activities in exchange for your coaching on resume writing and interviewing techniques? The opportunities are endless when you think of how your needs and skills can match up with someone else’s needs and skills.

Junior Entrepreneurs, Not Junior Couch Potatoes 

If left to their own devices, children may lounge a little too long in front of the TV or turn to electronics all day. I don’t know about you, but I can only take so many days of seeing the couch potato effect AND studies show they may start back to school with absolutely no drive to learn. Figuring out different activities for our children to partake in over the next few weeks can not only keep their rapt attention but also prepare their brains to start learning again when school starts up. Whether it’s art, mowing lawns, a lemonade stand with a neighbor, or making dinner, encourage them to branch out and feel that confidence of independence.

Encourage Hobbies

2015-05-20 10.51.34Use the summer as a chance to enhance our children's hobbies. If she’s a blooming artist, load them her with an easel, paper, and paints or pencils and assign her different objects to sketch. At the end of every week, make a show of displaying her masterpieces and get her excited for the objects they'll be sketching next.

If he’s more of a chef (and is old enough), find some easy and safe recipes that her can tinker with in the kitchen while getting a few conference calls out of the way. When he makes a culinary breakthrough, he'll not only enjoy eating it but will also feel an unbelievable amount of pride and accomplishment at having created something with his own two hands.

Develop Skills

Depending on where we live, encouraging the business savvy in your child could mean epic summer fun. Help them set up a stand to sell lemonade and/or baked goods and watch their entrepreneurial spirit flourish. Have some chores around the house you avoid like I do? Well, let them wash the car or organize the garage? "Hiring" our children and paying them with real 2014-06-16 09.46.02money or special trips to get ice cream or the library works. Our houses can be sparkling, and our children will be antsy to start their next project. Win-win!

Instead of just asking my daughter to clean out her room, I let her come up with a plan for organizing it. She not only has bought in to the idea, but she has made it her own project, exceeding my expectations exponentially. (She actually organized her hanging clothes by color coding the clothes hangers.) They might whine a little…..or a lot at first, but once they get going and make it their own it is awesome to watch. And ultimately, taking pride in a job well-done gives our children confidence and self-esteem.

When our children are a little older, we can help them with a flyer and they can peddle their skills in mowing lawns, cleaning pools, weeding flower beds, or being their own “Mommy Help” for another family. Whatever it is, we can encourage them to branch out and feel that confidence of earning their own money.

I want to be clear. We watch TV in our house. My children watch TV. A little TV here and there isn't a bad thing. There are many studies out there about how much is appropriate for each age group, etc. And don’t get me started about WHAT should they watch. Oy vey, there is some yucky stuff on TV…..even children’s channels so I’ve learned not to be fooled by what the channel is.

2015-05-17 16.06.18For me, it is not as much about how MUCH TV but more about the WHAT…..trying to ensure that our children are spending screen time absorbing meaningful content…..or at least not yucky stuff. Services like Jelly Telly offer quality programming that children enjoy and we can feel comfortable allowing them to watch. We can also scour Netflix and Amazon Instant to find some kid-friendly shows or documentaries that will teach our children something behind a veil of entertaining television.

When it comes down to it, summer is a stretch of time that comes, whether we are ready for it or not. Instead of scowling until the fall, losing clients, or ending every day with a little less hair, let’s make our goal to set our children (and ourselves) up for an enjoyable summer that no one will want to see come to an end.

Ok, here we go!

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