June 17, 2014

The Importance of a Father

In honor of Father’s Day, I wanted to write a piece explaining just how important a father is in the life of a child. The only way that I know how to do this is to share with you the role that my father has played in my life. So, here you go:

 While we all know there aren’t any special skills required to make a baby, those of us with great fathers know that it takes a special man to earn the title of “dad.” And, in a lot of cases, those who are called “dad” are not the biological fathers of the children who look up to them. I know because this is the exact same relationship that my father and I have.

While I was growing up I didn’t appreciate all the things this man sacrificed for me. I had no idea just how much of a handful I was or how much time, money, frustration, worry, etc. was spent on me throughout all of those years. However, now that I am a mother, I finally understand just how much of himself he gave to me and that it was all given out of love; love that he did not have to give.

After all, I was not his biological daughter. I was two when he and my mom married. (Shortly after that time, my biological father stopped paying child support, as well as, visiting me.) So, you see – he walked in to a “ready-made” family. And while he was not my “real” dad, he was the only father-figure I had in my life.

Because he chose to love me like his own and raise me in the way that he would raise his own child, I grew up one pretty lucky girl. I never grew up feeling as if there was something (or someone) missing from my life or wondering what I did wrong to cause my biological dad to cut off communication with me.  Instead, I grew up knowing that I was loved and that I was exactly who I was supposed to be. The fact that I had another “dad” somewhere never caused me any concern. As far as I was concerned, this man…the man my mother married when I was two, was (and still is) my father. My only dad.

In addition to being an amazing father to me, my dad has also shown me over the years what it means to be a man of true character. Through his example, I have learned the value of working hard, being honest and living up to your word. I have also seen what it takes to create a marriage that’s filled with love, respect, patience and appreciation for your spouse; the kind of marriage that will last a lifetime.

All of these things I have learned from a man who did not have to be my father. It is because of this man that I have grown into the woman that I am and have married a man who loves and respects me and who is, in turn, an awesome father to our two boys. It is safe to say that my life would not be the same today if I had not been raised by the man that I call “dad.”

Like I said previously, there are no special skills required to make a baby. However, it takes a lot to fulfill the role of a father.

For those of you who have grown up with amazing fathers, as I have, take the time to let them know just how much you love and appreciate them and all the sacrifices they’ve made for you over the years. And, for all of the fathers out there, remind yourself daily that the example you set will have a major impact on your children’s lives. Whether it is good or bad depends on you.

Do you have a story regarding the influence that your father has had in your life that you would like to share? If you do, please feel free to share! 

June 4, 2014

Outdoor Features for Kids

With spring and summer right around the corner, many people are beginning to think about what outdoor yard projects they need to put on the “to-do” list. My husband and I are included in this group of people as we have a pretty bare yard that needs a lot of TLC in order to fulfill our family’s needs and dreams.

As many of you know, we built our house just a couple of years ago and having the yard sodded was not an option as our front yard is roughly 10,000 sq. feet with the back yard about three-fourths the size of the front. Therefore, the past two springs and summer we have focused on killing the weeds while improving the grass. We also completed a landscaping project last fall as we put in our own stone-lined flower beds in the front.

While we are still looking for ways to improve the overall appearance of our yard, we are more focused on finding some fun outdoor features for the kids this year. Having a few outdoor activities for the kids will encourage them to find things to do outside during the warm weather instead of sitting inside watching the television. Below are a few outdoor features we are considering for our kiddos. Maybe they will give you some fresh ideas for what you can add to your backyard for the kids to enjoy this year!
Jungle Gym/Monkey Bars: As a child I can remember spending hours outside playing on the monkey bars that my parents had for us in our backyard. While I thought I was having a blast swinging from bar to bar, I was also getting some much needed exercise in. A jungle gym/monkey bar set is a great thing to add to your backyard as kids can swing, climb, flip on it all spring/summer long!

ATV: I understand this is not something everyone wants to have for the kiddos to play with, but we are strongly considering one for our oldest son (6) as we have 2.5 acres of land and most of the neighbor kids have one. Of course, we will be purchasing one that has a speed control and the automatic off option if the child falls off and he will be wearing a helmet. My husband grew up with four wheelers so this is something he feels like our boys will thoroughly enjoy. If you have the space available, it may be something your kids will enjoy too. 

Tetherball and Basketball: For some reason kids of all ages enjoy playing tetherball and basketball, making these two very easy outdoor activities to add for your kids, especially if there are other kids in the area. They are both outdoor features that your kids will enjoy for years to come! 
So, what are some of the outdoor activities that your children enjoy? Are you going to be adding any outdoor features this spring/summer? If so, what will you be adding?

June 3, 2014

Preparing for Summer Break

I’m still in shock that we just finished up spring break. I mean, it seems like we just started the school year and here we are a little over a month away before school lets out for the summer! Time just seems to fly by faster with each passing year for me.

While I am very blessed to have a job that allows me to spend most of my time at home with the kids, summer breaks can get long for the kids and I both if I’m not adequately prepared for the 12-week break. For instance, last year, I wasn’t quite prepared for the break and about four days into summer break my son asked when he was going to get to go back to school.

Since I don’t want a repeat of last year, I have created this to-do list for preparing for summer break to help ensure that the kids and I both enjoy the entire summer break!

1.Shop the dollar stores. My kids are both young enough that they are still easily entertained with the cheap/silly toys found at the dollar stores. The dollar stores have lots of great toys for parents to whip out when the kids come and say, “mom, I’m bored.” Hula hoops, puzzles, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, etc. are just some of the treasures you can find here – and the best part is that they are all affordable!

2.Book summer activities. One of the best things that I managed to do last year for my school-aged son was enroll him in a couple of week-long summer (day) camps. He participated in two art camps and a science camp. One of the camps was a half-day (from 8am until 11:30am) and the other two were all day camps (8am-4:30pm). Not only did he really enjoy himself, make new friends and learn new things, but I was able to get quite a bit done around the house that I am not able to do when I’ve got the boys with me all day. While summer camps are great activities to send your kids to a couple times throughout the summer, they are not the only summer activities that are activities that require a little planning. Things like swimming lessons, t-ball, a trip to the zoo, etc. are all fun summer activities that are best planned (“booked”) in advance because they give everyone something to look forward too.

3.Make plans for play dates. Get in contact with friends who have children the around the same age as your kids and make plans to schedule play dates throughout the summer. They don’t necessarily have to be every week, but every other week is good for both the kids and you as you will get a little “adult” social time in too. You may even be able to switch off hosting play dates with a friend or two so that the kids can play while the non-hosting parent gets a few hours to run errands in solitude (aka: peace).

4.Create a chore chart. This is one that I am for sure doing this summer. My son is old enough to know that things cost money and he has no problem asking me to buy him stuff when we are at the store. Well, guess what? He’s also old enough to help out around the house and learn what it means to earn his spending money. This year, I am creating a chore chart that will be ready to go on the first day of summer break. My son will have a list of chores that he is responsible for every day. When he completes a chore, he will be able to put a sticker in the box next to the chore that he completed. At the end of the week we will count how many chores he did that week and he will get paid for those chores. Now, these chores will be the “special” chores that are not part of the routine responsibilities he has (making his bed, picking up his toys, brushing teeth, etc.). I’m thinking about chores like emptying the trashes and setting the trash by the road on trash day, unloading the dishwasher, folding a load of towels, etc. Not only do chores help teach kids about responsibility and earning money, but they also help keep them busy too.

5.Prepare “school” work. No, I’m not a drill sergeant mom, but I am one who plans on giving my son a little bit of school work to do throughout the summer. He will be going to 1st grade next year and one of the most important things I can help him work/improve on is his reading. We will continue to read one book a day Monday thru Friday, as well as, work on sight words, writing and math. You can purchase age-appropriate workbooks for math, reading and writing at most bookstores or online. One or two worksheets a day isn’t anything to extraordinary to expect from the kids throughout the summer.

Hopefully the “to-do” list above has given you some ideas for how you can prepare for the 12-week summer break that’s quickly approaching. Do you have any additional ideas to help us get ready?

June 2, 2014

Gearing Up for Summer: Fun Activities for the Kids

As we’ve rounded the corner of winter and are headed straight for spring, it’s time for us to start thinking about summer activities for the kids again. Summertime is a fun time for kids as they enjoy being out of school during the days and getting to spend their time doing whatever they feel like doing (and that mom and dad approve of). However, for parents, summer break can be a little bit stressful and many parents work and aren’t able to be home with their kids during those long summer days.

And, then there are also the parents who are fortunate enough to be able to stay at home with their kids. They too feel the strain of summer break as the days seem to drag on and on as summer rolls on by. The days can go by extremely slow when the kids aren’t involved in any summer activities. Therefore, pre-planning a few summer activities for your kids can be very beneficial for both you and your children! Below are a few fun summer activities that your kids may enjoy.

1.  Horseback Riding Lessons: Learning how to ride a horse is not something everyone gets to do, making it a privilege for those who have the opportunity. If there is a nearby horse facility that offers horseback riding lessons during the summer, then this may be the perfect summer activity for your child. And, who knows, maybe it will be something they will want to pursue further! Regardless of whether it’s just a one-summer thing or turns into a passion for your child, horseback riding is an experience they won’t forget.

2.  Swim Camp: We have all heard about traditional summer camps, but what about a summer camp that’s for kids who love to swim? If you have a child who knows how to swim and enjoys the sport of swimming, then consider enrolling him/her in a summer swim camp. This will be a great way for them to get some much needed exercise while perfecting a skill that they love. It’s also perfect for those who are considering competitive swimming!

3.  Summer Art Camp: If you have a child who enjoys art, regardless of whether its oil painting, filmmaking, dance, acting, etc., then a summer art camp should definitely be considered. Even if your child doesn’t have a particular area of interest, but enjoys art and the freedom to explore his/her imagination, then art camp is most likely something that he/she will enjoy.

There are so many summer activities for kids to participate in that it’s unreal. The three listed above don’t even begin to scratch the surface. These types of activities are beneficial for kids to do over the summer because it keeps them busy and out of trouble, keeps them thinking and their creative juices flowing, helps them make new friends and can also aid in exercise (depending on what type of activity they participate in).

Did you have any favorite summer activities that you enjoyed as a child?