The Best Summer Ever

Our summer will be over next Monday when I walk Claire .2 miles down the street to her first day of Kindergarten. For the first time in many, many, many years I am also a little bit SAD that summer is over. This summer has seriously been THE BEST. BEST!

I don’t have a good track record at surviving summer at home with small children. Summer in Texas is…not my favorite. It’s always so hot and my children have always been age-ineligible for Organized Summer Activities and someone was always going through a terrible phase like Not Sleeping Ever At All.

Last summer was terrible. I had a four month old, a 2 year old, and a 4 year old to entertain. I went into it knowing that it would probably be the most difficult summer of my entire life, if we’re measuring difficulty on metrics like Exhaustion and Number of Minutes Spent Listening To Someone Cry In A Single Day and Cups Of Coffee Consumed Before 10 AM. My kids were still too young that summer to really be put into any camps or classes and it was just day after endless day of heat and nap schedules and snacks. I was nursing (also known as Chained To The Nearest Chair) and it was all so transition-y still (THREE KIDS I AM STILL SOMETIMES SURPRISED) and…it was a terrible summer. Let us never speak of it again.

This summer was SO MUCH BETTER. Everyone slept all night, every night, in their own rooms this summer. (GLORIOUS!)  Both girls were finally old enough for classes and we did a lot of those with friends. (FAB!) Preston was Not An Infant, which doesn’t sound like much of an upgrade but IT IS. (HE SLEEEEEEEPS.)

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We did Open Gym for the first month, which is where I paid some money to go to the gymnastics place every day for up to two hours and let the kids run wild in what is essentially a padded room. This was EXCELLENT for Preston, but the girls liked it too. It was air conditioned, it let them run out their energy in a totally fun way, it was close to home, it was cheap. Would do again.

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We did Gymnastics Classes for Claire. Every Monday she had a one-hour class at the Open Gym place. I thought this would teach her how to use all of that equipment safely and maybe she’d be good at it (this was her first ever organized activity) and she liked it at first but we ran into a few problems.

The class was at 530, which was unexpectedly a terrible time. See, Chris would have to make sure he was home by 5 (not difficult, but we were constantly forgetting and calling each other saying, “OH CRAP, GYMNASTICS TONIGHT!”) so he could keep Preston and Charlotte at home and I could take Claire to her class. See, we quickly learned that taking Charlotte and Preston to this class and then having to WATCH them in the parent area while the class was conducted was the biggest pain in the ass ever. We did that exactly one time. They BOTH wanted to go into the gym and PLAY because HELLO that’s what we did earlier today, we know we are allowed in there MOM.

Also it was 530 and it totally messed with the dinner hour and bedtime for Preston in particular.

Then there was the part where Claire wasn’t immediately The Most Outstanding Student In The History Of Gymnastics and she quickly lost interest in the whole thing so that soured the experience QUITE A BIT for me. (“Mom. Mom. Mooooooooom. I don’t WANNA go to my class.”) I am not sure when we will be taking on another activity/class type thing.

The big take-away for me was that I am not ready, as a parent of three children, to commit to activities OF ANY SORT where one child does something but then I have to drag the other two along with me to WATCH. No. That’s not going to work for us.

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We did Vacation Bible School. Our preschool is at a church and they do a big VBS every summer and I’d heard good things about it for years and I decided this was going to be the year we tried it out. The catch is that if you have a child under age 4 participating, you have to stay on site and volunteer. (I am not sure if this is a way to simply get more volunteers or if it has to do with their state credentialing but whatever, it’s the rule.)

Preston got dropped into the infant care center (at the church, where he was the ONLY KID with FOUR ADULTS, talk about toddler heaven) and Charlotte got to join the 3 year old class and Claire was in the 5 year old class and I got to run all of the preschool games. (That’s right, I was THE GAME LADY.) We did the afternoon session from 1-4p because I never ever ever have a hard time entertaining my kids in the morning, but those hot summer afternoons are TORTURE.

And that’s all we did for a week. We left the house at 1230 and didn’t come home until 5 and we were all tired but it was SO MUCH FUN, GUYS. It ate up an entire week, we all got t-shirts, Preston got a taste of someone other than his mother caring for him (important life skill), and the girls had a great time. Also, there were nice lessons and good feelings and YAY VBS. We didn’t really do ANYTHING ELSE that week, but it was great. Will do again.

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We did a mini vacation. We visited Space Center Houston and the Kemah Boardwalk and we stayed in a hotel and ate a lot of McDonalds on the way there and back. Preston stayed with my mom for this one and it’s a good thing because he would have haaaated it.

It was hot and the girls were not old enough to appreciate ANYTHING about the Space Center and the place itself is not the best (I see why they were not awarded an orbiter) but I sure liked it and had fun even though I saw more than one roach in our Marriott-branded hotel in Crystal City, Texas. (HORK.) Glad(ish) we did it but nope, would not do this one again.

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I visited the liquor store for fun and bought a bottle of cherry moonshine and it was so terrible. Would not do again.

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We did Grammie Camp. My mom took Claire for two weeks and sent her to a Lego Camp and a handful of tennis lessons. Having a kid gone for two weeks was crazzzzzzy amazing. She adored the Lego camp and all of the undivided attention from her grandparents. I missed her and everything but…would do again.

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We did two weeks of swim lessons at the YMCA. We’ve done this before, two summers ago. This was eight half hour lessons at 9 am. Not gonna lie, it was a huge drag to get everyone out the door with all of the swim accessories so early and so frequently but it was good. Claire is getting so much better in the water and Char is on her way.

Preston haaaaated the on-site child care and to be honest Preston had a point because it was pretty overcrowded and he kept getting returned to me with big bonks on his head. I kept him for a few of the lessons after that. But, good teachers in the pool, inexpensive ($45 per kid!), convenient, well-run. Would do again!

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We did two weeks of sports camp with friends. This was a few hours in the morning where I dropped the girls off to play indoor games like dodgeball and something called Toilet Tag, which I am not too sure about. (THANKS FOR THAT ONE, YOUTH LEADERS.) It was a bit spendy (about $100 a kid, which is why I only did two weeks) but it provided structure and air conditioned exhaustion and time with friends and time away from me, out of my house.

I saved these for the end of the summer because I knew I’d be pretty DONE by then and also it would be the hottest part of the year. They both loved it. Would do again, especially if I can find some for cheaper.

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The best part about this summer (and this was a totally free part!) has been the lack of 100-degree days. After 2011 where we had more than SEVENTY days above 100, we’re at 15 or so! (2011 was SO BAD.) And now summer is almost over! We have been able to play outside for most of the season and it’s been GREAT. Sure, it’s been sweaty and the mosquitoes have eaten me alive in the twilight hours but I didn’t feel like I was going to spontaneously combust when I walked across a parking lot AND THAT WAS TOTALLY FABULOUS.

WOULD ABSOLUTELY DO AGAIN.

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We ate a lot of delicious treats: Four boxes of bomb pops, at least three dozen peaches, four half gallons of Blue Bell Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, five boxes of Drumsticks brand ice cream cones, one box of mini ice cream sandwiches, more than $100 in Sonic milkshakes.

We lit some stuff on fire: Sparklers for Fourth of July and some shots at the Dry Bean in College Station. (What? You’re SUPPOSED to light certain ones on fire.)

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If you got this far and you’re interested in a little movie picture show of our summer, here you go. (HI MOM!)

(If you are reading this on an Apple device and you can’t watch Flash SORRY here’s the direct link to the video on Flickr. I hate myself for using a FLASH video but it’s how Flickr embeds it and I just cannot be bothered to find another way at this moment.)

Farewell Summer 2014! You were FAB!

School Supplies: Claire’s List and What They Cost

Claire will be starting Kindergarten in just two weeks and I’m pretty excited about the whole thing. Here is her school supply list.

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And here is all her stuff.

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I didn’t think the list was too bad, actually.  Our Kindergarten list was a lot shorter than all the other grades and there aren’t any big ticket items on here like older grades might have. (Graphing calculators, I am looking at you) (Do they even still use those? Isn’t there an app for that?)

I managed to wrangle this for about $40. I tried to keep careful track and have it all rung up separately so I could pull the receipt out for a quick comparison while I was shopping around, but I am missing one receipt for a handful of items, so I think it’s about $40. I’m making the executive decision to call it $40.

I had to make five trips to the store (but not special trips, just incidental “we need milk” trips) and I bounced back and forth between Walmart and Target to gather it up. The price differences were sometimes pretty steep but sometimes it was just pennies so it looked like not enough to care about. But as a percentage it WAS. And I know it’s just pennies, but when it’s fifty or so pennies and twenty items that’s about ten bucks which is two Starbucks and that’s how I do bargain-shopping math. (GINGERBREAD LATTE SEASON IS CLOSER THAN YOU THIIIIINK.)

A 24-pack of Crayolas was $1.99 at Target and .50 at Walmart. (Target later matched the sale price.) (400%)

An 8-count of Crayola Markers was $1.99 at Target and $1.27 at Walmart. (37%)

4-pack of Play-doh, 5 oz cans was $2 at Walmart and $3 at Target (33%)

Two Rookie Lessons:

Next year I will not begin purchasing items on the list when the list becomes available. I will wait until all the back to school stuff goes on its first sale, sometime around the end of July. I purchased early because I was worried about the right items selling out (and being pushed into buying a TEN PACK of pencils when the list required EIGHT), but that isn’t the case around here, at least not yet. We have two weeks until the First Day and I bet that happens as we get closer to 8/25 but right now the shelves are fully stocked.

Except next year I will already have a student in class and I will be able to just CLICK TO BUY. (WONDERFUL!) The PTA organizes a thing where you buy the supplies online and they are shipped directly to the teacher and isn’t this just so great? So great. I love seeing people use the internet correctly.

I missed it this year since they didn’t contact the parents of incoming Kindergarteners and the deadline was like, a week after school got OUT. But next year you bet your butt I will order online and just be FINISHED. If you have a number, I’d be curious what your lists cost and for what grade. I bet this kind of thing varies WILDLY.

(Seriously, do you see the SEVEN containers of glue up there? SEVEN! So many sticky projects.)

7 Quick Takes: Tupperware, PTA, Jumanji

1. I started writing this post at 430 in the morning. Preston has something sticky going on in his throat and he sounds terrible over the monitor. He’s had such a great summer with NO runny nose and not a single visit to the doctor after last winter, which I will probably always remember as That Winter We Spent Every Week At The Doctor’s Office Because Of All The Ear Infections. But now he has a cold and he sounds terrible and I’d bet perfectly good money that I end up at the pediatrician’s by Friday with an otoscope in his ear.

Winter is coming.

2. Claire is going to a 2-hour camp this week in the mornings where she plays games with friends in a gym. I thought the camp was MWF (I signed her up back in May), but it turns out it’s MTWTh! That was an extremely pleasant surprise.

3. There are only two weeks left until school starts and I think I’m (logistically) ready. I have the lunchboxes and the lunchbox accessories. I have frozen two big sacks of waffles for breakfasts. I got a packet in the mail about when the class lists will be posted in the window, PTA membership (you KNOW I’m signing up for that so I can keep tabs on any school dramz), how to order a spirit shirt (blue tie-dye this year, which Claire is thrilled about since blue is her favorite color), and the parent “party” after drop-off on the first day which is ingeniously called “Yahoo/Boo-Hoo.” (Isn’t that GREAT!?)

I am going to have a child at this school until 2023. Does anyone want to make bets on how many years it is before I hold a PTA position? It feels inevitable.

4. Last weekend I went thrift shopping and this is totally becoming one of my new favorite things to do. Most of the time, it’s a bunch of crap and the stores smell like mothballs and stale laundry, but sometimes there is something decent to very very good. Last weekend I came home with this fabulous Tupperware patio drink set from 1963.

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Isn’t that great?! So great. I knew right away that it would be so perfect for giving drinks to the kids when they are playing outside and I could even put snacks on the top tier and the whole thing was just so delightfully retro. It was only $8 for the stand and the six cups and I would have been FINE stopping there but then my mom had to tell me that I could “Totally go on eBay and find lids for those cups! And those cups came in SO MANY different colors!”

Well.

Did you know that vintage Tupperware is kind of a THING on eBay? It is. I should have stopped at my $8 purchase but I could not leave well enough alone and I bought PRETTIER cups for about $20.

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Then I bought a pie keeper. Because LOOKIT HOW CUTE THIS IS.

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I would not say that thrifting is turning out to be a BARGAIN use of time for me. I’m not allowed to look at Tupperware on eBay any more. (I should note that I found my tray on eBay and it had the cups and lids and spoons and the guy wanted ONE HUNDRED THIRTY DOLLARS for it. So maybe this is still a smart buy.) (Haaa no it’s not, IT’S PLASTIC CUPS.)

5. I am out of the cloth diaper game. I’ve decided to quit with them because he’s 18 months old and that’s when I quit with Charlotte and also his pants don’t fit with a cloth diaper over them any more and he’s already wearing a 2T/3T. Also, I am tired of washing them. I made my money back long ago. So! I am going to sell them all (more than 30!).

I have a mix of Bum Genius 3.0′s (fair condition, $5 each) and 4.0′s (good condition, $10 each), in a variety of solid colors (mostly snaps, a few velcro)  plus two pail liners and a couple of wet bags and half a sack of Rockin’ Green.  If you are interested in The Great Diaper Sell Off let me know and I will send details before I put them all on eBay.

6. I’ve been looking for a babysitter on Sittercity and Care.com and it’s kind of amazing how many people who cannot write a complete sentence want to watch my children. No. NOPE.

7. Claire watched Jumanji with me last night and she LOVED IT. She shouted and got excited and said darling things like WHOAAAAAA when the stampede through the library happened. At one point she looked at me and deadpanned, “MOM. I think that game they are playing is HAUNTED.”

Claire really digs movies where magical or caper-like things happen, particularly with children involved. Home Alone is another big favorite of hers, as is Spy Kids. I was trying to think of other (classic) movies like this that we might watch together but I was having a hard time. I bet she would love Harry Potter but I would like her to read the books first.

Ideas?

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