The end of preschool is nigh and I am not looking forward to endless sweltering days with three children in the house. Those 100-degree days and 90-degree nights make it SO tough to plan activities for children. There won’t be any preschool and the days will just seem SO LONG. But, we’re not there quite yet! There is no need to whine miserably right now.
I am not going to fail at summer again this year and hide in the living room and watch movies all day and then hope my children behave after having their brains eaten up by Disney. NOPE. NOT GONNA. That was AWFUL last year. My strategy of Hide And Wish The Hot Away was not successful. I can’t recommend that path. I have a legit-for-serious summer Plan of Action and it’s been in the works for MONTHS. (Seriously, last summer was TERRIBLE.)
(Also, I was pregnant and in the first trimester. Related? PERHAPS.) (MOVING ON NOW.)
PART THE FIRST: LIVEN UP THE YARD A BIT
The first part of my Serious Plan of Action for summer is to overhaul the back yard and make it as inviting/fun/accessible as possible. The more we can do here at the house, the more enjoyable life is for me. It’s terribly exhausting to prepare and take three children out of the house. TERRIBLY. Let’s try and avoid that unless we’re running a legitimate errand.
The first thing is to create more things to do/play with in the yard because they are definitely BORED with what we have. I’d like to avoid a patio that looks like a plastic wasteland, but I also know that a new box of chalk isn’t going to cut it. I also want things that are grab and play, not “Mommy, will you please take ten minutes to set this up for us, so we can abandon it four minutes later?” I’ll be replenishing our supply of bubbles and making sure the soccer balls have air in them and the wagon hasn’t rusted through over the winter and basics like that.
We are also thinking of making a Grand Purchase and buying a swing set like proper suburbanites. We’re looking at a super simple, time-tested swing set. You know, Just Swings.
$450, delivered and it gets rave reviews. I think we’ll get one of those toddler bucket swings to swap in the middle so the baby isn’t left out. (How perfect is this? Three places to swing, three kids. It seems like there’s nothing to fight over, but I am sure they’ll figure out a way.)
The reviewer that sold me said all her kids want to do at the park is swing ANYWAY so why bother with the giant play structure when you can buy JUST SWINGS. And why bother going to the park for JUST SWINGS when you can buy JUST SWINGS for a semi-reasonable amount of money? This is exactly the brand of child I seem to own in triplicate.
“Swing, mommy! Push, mommy! Underdog, mommy! Swing! I SWING!”
Seriously, 90% of our park time is spent on the swings. Now, $450 is a big figure for me to accept and feel good about when it comes to providing at-home entertainment for the kids, particularly when I live in a town with a crapton of lovely parks that are very nicely maintained, but the part where they can go OUT and I can stay IN? Or one child can go out while the other naps? I just…I feel like there’s value there.
Also, we have a potty here and snacks and water and our very own time-out corners (enough for everyone!) and it just feels a bit more manageable than packing them up and going somewhere. This is ESPECIALLY true if all anyone ever wants to do is swing. We can totally still go to all the city parks for the climbing and sliding and spinning, but this looks like a fun thing to have in OUR yard for smaller pockets of time when I don’t want to (or can’t) dedicate two hours to taking three kids to the park. (And on a hot day we’re simply not going to the park anyway, sorry I’m not sorry I don’t want to stand outside in 110-degrees and chase small people. No.) When it’s time to move it along to new owners in the middle-school years it should come apart easily and fit in the back of a pickup on its way to another home via Craigslist. Done. I’m pretty excited about this.
I’m also going to make some kind of giant chalkboard, a la Elizabeth. Here is E’s chalkboard. It is genius, no? This should be a cheapish project, which appeals to me after spending $450 on the luxury of not taking my children to the park.
I am going to buy myself some new chairs for the patio. Not like, NICE chairs or anything, because it’s going to to turn into the surface of the sun out there soon, but I’m going to go ahead and upgrade from my 70%-off Target chairs from 2005 and get some full-price Target chairs from 2013. (I know, someone stop me! I’m going a little wild now!)
PART THE SECOND: REFRESH THE EXISTING ACTIVITIES/TOYS
We DO have some fun things already, that seem to be winners year after year.
The water table is still going strong (on its fourth summer!) but we need some more things to play with, which means I will be giving the children all of the plastic cups I don’t want in my kitchen any more.
All of the original accessories are mostly long gone but it doesn’t really seem to matter, as my children have no issues finding alternative unsafe uses for their toys.
The playhouse will be moving outdoors shortly, I think. It’s been a big hit in the house all winter but I’m getting tired of looking at it and they have definitely stopped spending consecutive hours inside it. So, outside it will go. Perhaps that will change the game a bit and make it worthy of hours and hours of their time once again.
Grandma bought them a picnic table for Christmas, and it’s been getting a lot of use!
The thing about kid picnic tables on Amazon is they are almost universally disliked by reviewers. The plastic ones get awful reviews for being flimsy or sagging when more than one child sits on the bench. I have the THREE children now and I definitely needed one at least THEY could sit at and if they were nice enough to have friends that wanted to come over one day it would be good if the friend could sit there too. The entire purpose of a picnic table is to sit at it and if it’s not good for sitting then it’s just waiting to meet the curb on a bulky trash day in the near future.
Anyway, this one got decent reviews and it was simple-looking and now that we’ve had it for a few months I can totally endorse it. It comes WAY more put together than the description indicates. The entire top was shipped assembled and the sides as well. It was super fast to bolt it together and Chris sprayed a coat of poly onto it since we opted for the unfinished version. (The painted versions had sketch reviews about coverage and sticky paint and also I thought they were ugly.)
I have a small baby pool, but I think I might like some kind of sprinkler setup for this summer. The plastic pools always get so GROSS after about eight minutes and then I forget to dump the water and it kills all the grass underneath and then we have these baby pool crop circles in the yard. SO ATTRACTIVE. I would like very much to avoid any kind of plastic pool situation this summer. But then again, the sprinklers always turn the yard into a swamp because five minutes is never enough, it has to be forty. LE SIGH. Sadly, going to the neighborhood pool isn’t much of an option since I only have two arms and that’s not enough to keep three children from drowning.
(What do YOUR kids like to play with outside? Have I missed anything here?)
PART THE THIRD: ACTIVITIES! LOTS AND LOTS OF ACTIVITIES!
Our preschool stops for the summer and a big question for me is What To Do With Claire For Eleven Weeks? I prefer to send her somewhere a few times a week for a few hours a day so she can do her own things with her own people. (Basically…I want to keep sending her to preschool.) I can’t find anything like this close by for a reasonable rate in the summer, so we’re going to have to put together a bunch of stopgaps to keep her entertained and me sane. (I can only do so many cut and paste projects at home before I want to eat the glue and put myself out of my own misery.)
Last year Claire took swim lessons at the Y and it was a great experience. It was a Monday-Thursday class, daily, for about an hour, and it wore her completely the heck out every day and she took the best naps after swim lessons. She also learned to swim a little, so everyone was a winner. We are definitely repeating this, probably 2 sessions, for a total of 4 weeks. I’d love to stick Charlotte in lessons too, but I’ll have to check the schedule and see if I can get them in the pool at about the same time.
We have a membership to the Ft Worth Museum of Science and History and it is a wonderful museum and it is air-conditioned (as is almost every public place in Texas) and it’s a great place to kill a day with kids. It’s also about an hour away from the house, and this prevents us from going very often. But we do have the membership and my grandparents live close by and I’d like to really make more of an effort to get down there more regularly. I should probably go here every day the temperature gets above 100, just to get out of the house for a few hours and give our AC (and electric bill) a break.
There is an aquarium pretty close to the house (less than ten minutes) and I’m told it’s decent. I’m considering getting a family pass, because it’s air-conditioned (KEY THEME), and it sounds like a good way to kill a portion of a day with a not-expensive, not-hot outing that isn’t too hard for me to supervise three children at. The part where it’s SO CLOSE is really attractive, and also there is a J Crew outlet there too, which I would not mind more excuses to visit frequently and monitor sales. (What? It’s my summer too. I’m also allowed to do things I like.)
Claire is going to take a ballet class for the first time and maybe also a gymnastics class. (But not at the same time, I can only handle so many lessons/appointments in one week.) Maybe. If I can find ones I like that aren’t too serious. (Man, people in Texas take dance classes Very Seriously, even for very young children.)
I am also totally signing her up for VBS at the church where she goes to school. That’s a whole week in July of activities and craft projects! YOU BETCHA!
We will be spending lots of weekends with my parents in their swimming pool and basking in the special attention only grandparents can provide.
So, that’s my Summer Plan of Action. This is the only summer I’ll have three children at home for eleven weeks in the heat, where one of them is a high maintenance baby. I can do this, right? Right. Riiiiiight.