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mama kat's writers workshop memes & carnivals motherhood

The Difference A Year Makes.

One of Mama Kat’s prompts for this week’s Writer’s Workshop is to look back on a blog posts from this time last year and compare how things are different now…

I know, right?

I don’t think 2019 Jen could even fathom 2020 Jen’s life and that’s okay because I wouldn’t wish it on my worst alternate reality self. But if we can’t giggle about it and pretend it doesn’t hurt then the Rona Gremlins win. So here’s a post I wrote back in August of 2019 just before school was about to start.

I was giddy with anticipation about the kids going back to school soon because as much as I love my kids, being with them every day all day for a whole summer can be tough.

Here are some of the things I was looking forward to doing:

I can’t wait to go to the coffee shop and just get something for myself and only spend like $5. Which I still do sometimes during the summer but it earns me a stink eye from the Offspring.

I mean, I’d still love to go to the coffee shop by myself but I would love it even more if I could go inside without putting on a mask, applying hand sanitizer and spritzing myself with holy water.

It goes without saying that I can’t wait to go to Target alone, right?

God guys, remember when going to Target was fun? I want to pretend I enjoy my trips there now but it’s not easy when people are standing too close to me, I feel guilty for wanting to peruse the dollar bins and I can’t drink a pumpkin spice frapuccino through my mask while shopping.

Though I’ll admit, shopping for office supplies still kind of feels like this.

I have these grand ambitions to start exercising again.

Siggggghhhh that would be awesome if I wasn’t still recovering from this sprained ankle situation. I have grand ambitions now to walk without limping. Besides I’ve always been terrible at exercise. So at least 2020 Jen won’t be lying to herself.

I am pretty stoked to spend a significantly smaller portion of my day listening to my children bicker about whatever video game they have ambitions to play together.”

Oh, I might actually get this one – once we’re all back on a school schedule there will be much less time for video games and arguing about video games. Huzzah!

I have not watched much in the way of grownup movies or television in months.

Man, same 2019 Jen, same.


So I guess the moral of the story is the more things change, the more they stay the same.

or…

The grass is greener on the vaccinated non-quarantined side.

or…

Wash your hands, kids!

or…

I can’t think about that right now, I’ll think about it tomorrow…

Categories
homeschool motherhood

Getting Ready for Back to School – 2020 Style

In three weeks we officially start our school year.

My fourteen year old is starting his first year of high school virtually. He’s the amount of excited but nervous that you would expect.

After months of hearing little more than crickets about what’s going to happen, the last week or two have been a comparable explosion of information. We’ve successfully completed online enrollment, picked up his school issued Chromebook, printed out the generic schedule explaining when his classes will meet virtually, and started talking about adjusting sleep schedules so that logging into class on time will be easy.

And then there’s the whole “I’m homeschooling my 6th grader” thing. Our Bookshark curriculum was delivered on Friday and, after spending the weekend organizing everything, things are looking pretty darn real now.

I’ve been labeling books, pouring over instructor guides, filling out lesson plans and calendars, and even started reading my 6th grader’s first independent reader for literature – The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell.

I’m hoping to stay a book ahead of her so that I’ll be able to really discuss those books with her and not have to rely solely on the instructor’s guide.

Along with the standard Bookshark curriculum, I also ordered a U.S. elections lapbook – which is a more hands on arts and crafts centered lesson. We’re reading about governments, elections, etc. and then filling out little charts and stuff and filling a fold out booklet with each project.

We’ll be using a similar thing in our social studies curriculum so I thought we’d spend the last few weeks of summer working on the election kit as a way to get our feet wet and ease ourselves into the school year.

I’ve also been figuring out things like health, art and music – which I’m making my own curriculum for. And talking with other mom friends in a similar boat about how to form little co op pods but with Covid precautions in mind. Occasional zoom chats or backyard study buddy time? Maybe some outdoor field trips?

I’ve also been watching lots of YouTube videos by homeschool moms and even started listening to a podcast called Homeschool Your Way. It’s sponsored by Bookshark but run by some mom friends who are longtime homeschoolers who also run homeschooling YouTube channels.

And of course I have to remind myself that we still have three whole weeks of summer left. So in between my spurts of planning and productivity, I’m trying to leave room for downtime. Watching movies with the kids, grilling dinner outside (thanks hubby!), playing video games and you know trying to breathe.

Speaking of breathing, I’ve been trying to spend some time reading or sitting outside while the weather is still nice. And my hubby and I are trying to commit to having coffee just the two of us at least once a week. Sometimes that’s outside in the backyard. Sometimes we’ll hit up a coffee shop with outdoor seating. But either way – it’s just us a good cup of coffee and no kids. Self care for the win!


When do your kids go back to school?

How have you been getting ready for the fall?

What are you doing for self care?

Categories
family fun IRL

It’s August. | Life update 8.07.20

Is anyone else really struggling to hold onto what day / month / phase of the moon we’re in? Apparently it’s August now and life continues to look the same and wildly different in turns. We’re still grilling dinner more nights than not, staying up late reading books, playing a TON of video games, watching all of Netflix and occasionally braving the grocery store or Target but then gasping our way back to the car laden with groceries and anxiety.

And with August comes the looming reality that school really is starting soon and we’re going to have to commit to whatever that means. I actually ordered our home school curriculum (from these cool people if you are looking for one still) for my 6th grader and next week I officially enroll my teenager into high school which is starting virtually but then come November we have no earthly idea what’s going to happen. This McSweenys post pretty much sums up the landscape though.

So I’m trying to get myself organized for the fall when things like what day it is will matter again. And then getting super impatient that I have to wait a whole month before actually doing any of that. And trying to keep busy by doing things like:

staining outdoor furniture because I’m a handy and capable lady with lots of time on her hands
Experimenting with hair curlers on my eleven year old because why not?
Trying to drink less coffee and more tea because did I mention anxiety and stuff?
Painting bamboo because someone did it on Instagram and I was like ooooooh and then had to try myself – who needs art lessons when you can just steal people’s ideas online and figure out how to do it yourself at home?

And looking at cute baby animals on Instagram for good measure. Obviously.


What are you guys up to this week?

What’s your plan for fall?

What weird new hobby have you picked up recently?

Categories
family fun

July 2020 in review.

Can you guys believe this month is almost over? 2020 continues to be a strange beast. Time is moving fast and slow. Months and weeks kind of blur together when our days are so similar. I’m not complaining, really.

As much as I look forward to the future when words like pandemic, quarantine, and “new normal” are not part of our daily routine – I’ve kind of enjoyed the easy pace of this summer. Being forced to slow down has its upsides and having everyone home is kind of nice.

The last month has involved a lot of grilling outdoors, roasting marshmallows, reading good books, blowing bubbles, playing in the sprinkler, and more.

My eleven year old and I watched the new Babysitter’s Club series on Netflix and loved it. We have been reading old super specials together at bedtime and of course my daughter loves the graphic novels. I think they did a good job modernizing the series but it still feels true to the original. It has that BSC magic that reminds me of my own childhood.

Speaking of my eleven year old, she celebrated said eleventh birthday this month. We’re continuing our new tradition of getting a swanky cake from my new favorite bakery for birthdays. Smaller celebrations mean I get to go all out for the cake and hopefully help support this small business that I love.

My teenager rearranged his room to make room for a desk – this is going to help a lot this fall because we’re all going to be home but doing slightly different things. My husband will be working from home in the office at least initially. My son’s high school is doing virtual learning until at least November. And…

My eleven year old is going to be homeschooled by yours truly for at least a year. That is not a sentence I pictured myself saying in the past but it became the obvious answer for several reasons. She and I are cautiously excited for this big change. I’m glad that I can do this for her and give her a consistent and stable school year while the country finds their footing.

Meanwhile my teenager is equally excited to start highschool and I’m grateful that the school is offering virtual learning to start.

So I’ve been spending a lot of the month researching curriculums and homeschooling laws, organizing the house to get both kids ready for the fall, and freaking out every few days about this new, big change in our lives. Because freaking out about things is like my part-time job.

That pretty much sums up our month. I’ll post again soon with the books I’ve been reading this month because it really warrants its own post.

What have you been up to this month?

I’m linking this post up with the Writer’s Workshop hosted by Mama Kat – love her!

Categories
family fun motherhood

5 Things Bringing Me Joy Right Now.

It would appear that 2020 is in no hurry to take it easy on us. Like everyone else, life has been a series of one step forward and two steps back, making the urge to wallow and whinge strong. But we know better.

We’ve learned to look for the things bringing us joy in the little moments. It’s the only way to battle the blahs and look at these months behind us with the ability to remember more than face masks, social media meltdowns and heartbreaking news stories.

So today let’s choose to look for the joy so that we can fight more battles tomorrow with renewed spirits.

Like these new jars I bought to store flour and sugar on the counter.

And the cookbook that I’ve been baking my way through while we’re stuck at home.

Or those small moments when life looks almost normal. Like taking the kids out for ice cream (we wore masks to order). Bonus points, we had the place to ourselves, so I let them eat inside in the air conditioning.

Playing outside – we’ve had plenty of time for frisbees and sidewalk chalk this summer.

Or when I baked chocolate chip cookies for my husband for Father’s Day and everyone agreed they were some of the best chocolate chip cookies ever.


What’s bringing you joy right now?

Categories
family fun motherhood photography wordless wednesday

wordless wednesday | pictures of june

When I look back on this time someday, these are the things I hope to remember. Not how Facebook was driving me crazy or how much I hate group texts or how much I miss that sense of normalcy that we’ve always taken for granted. I want to remember the beautiful moments that we found when we were forced to slow down and focus on home.

doodling along with some favorite illustrators on youtube - we love Studio JJK and Mo Willems!
doodling along with some favorite illustrators on youtube
what better activity to spend quarantine doing than baking my way through a new cookbook - these cheddar herb scones came out great
baking therapy for the win
making pinecone bird feeders with the kids really brought me back to doing this as a kid with my grandmother
making pine cone bird feeders like it’s 1992
finally painting again - it felt good to pull out my watercolors after a long hiatus
painting a watercolor meadow

Categories
family fun motherhood

Summer Vacation: Stuck at Home Still Edition

Summer vacation started a couple of weeks ago but for the most part nothing has changed. Despite some restrictions being lifted in town, we’re still mostly staying at home and trying to keep busy and avoid the news. Oh wait, that last part is just me.

That said, with school work out of the way and my husband back at work, we’ve had more time for Momma Camp type activities. I’m trying to keep the three of us busy during the day so we don’t melt into the couch forever.

We’ve been watching drawing tutorials on YouTube by Mo Willems and Jarrett J. Krosoczka. And a few others as well but these two are probably our favorites.

MM has been doing karate lessons online since March and just started attending in person again, with lots of restrictions and regulations in place.
My Animal Crossing addiction continues but I’m trying to play less during the day. I still managed to become a bellionaire in the Stalk Market though.

My reading life has been pretty solid this Spring. With no forced early wake ups, I’ve been staying up late reading most nights and occasionally sitting outside and reading in our backyard. My book club just finished Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and this month we’re reading The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman. These are some of the other books I’ve been adding to my TBR pile recently.

I might have bought the Babysitter’s Club board game to play with my girlie.
I taught the kids how to make bird feeders with pinecones, peanut butter and bird seed and then we hung them outside.

Then on the way inside I slipped and sprained my ankle so that is a bittersweet mom memory for me. I was feeling all the nostalgia remembering making these bird feeders with my grandmother and got some gorgeous pictures hanging them up. Then a moment later, woosh! I’m doing ok but still in a bit of pain several days later.

Luckily I have pretty self sufficient and sweet children who manage to keep themselves busy and help me out as needed. What was that about playing less Animal Crossing again?

What have you guys been up to?

Categories
IRL motherhood op ed

Before and After. Thoughts on life before quarantine and “new normals”

People keep talking about the new normal we’re going to have to adjust to when things start to open back up. I have mixed feelings about this phrase because I have mixed feelings about what life in quarantine has been like. The things I will miss and the things I won’t miss if and when life starts to resemble before.

Before quarantine I would stop into a favorite coffee shop for a latte and a treat. Sometimes I’d meet friends. Sometimes I would simply be taking a moment for myself between errands.

Most of these coffee shops will let me pick up these goodies to go, but I haven’t taken advantage of this because it seems like it was never about the latte, it was about the place and the people.

These days my morning starts with making a big pot of coffee to share with my husband who is working from home (though it sounds like he’ll be going back to the office soon). In between meetings we meet in the kitchen and pour another cup and chat about our day so far and discuss dinner. Usually he makes us bacon and eggs for lunch. I’ll be honest, this new ritual is something I’ll miss when he goes back to work.

Right before the spring break that never really ended I chaperoned a field trip to the planetarium with my fifth grader. It’s a favorite field trip of mine and I’m glad it wasn’t one of the many that was cancelled.

I miss volunteering in the kid’s classes, serving lunch to their smiling faces, going on field trips and catching up with school moms. We chat on Facebook but it’s not the same.

That said, I don’t miss the early morning rush or the driving from activity to activity at all. I secretly love having the kids at home all day. Don’t get me wrong, my introvert frequently burns out from the chatter, but I don’t hate midday cuddles and late bedtimes.

Before quarantine I bought a travel watercolor set so that I could paint on the go. That entire sentence seems foreign to me now.

I also carried around a book to read in the car during school pick up because nighttime reading was often sacrificed because of exhaustion. These days I have all the time I need for hobbies. I’m reading three books at a time. I play video games every day, y’all. We watch family movies multiple times a week.

I don’t miss being tired from running errands and saying yes to too many things. I don’t miss the busy. I love a lot of things about this forced slow down. And yet…

I do miss going to Target to look at absolutely nothing. I miss shopping without a mask. I miss a trip to the grocery store not leaving me emotionally exhausted for at least an hour. I miss seeing friends and kissing babies and smiling at cashiers and not cringing about 6 feet of separation.

I know it feels petty to complain about little things like wanting to grab coffee at Starbucks or visit a friend. But we all know it’s not about that really. It’s about being able to breathe and stretch and exist in the world – to smile and laugh and hug each other. That’s all I want.

Categories
books & reading family fun motherhood summer reading

Summer Reading BINGO 2020 | Free Printable

three wooden dinosaur
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I just finished creating a summer reading challenge for 2020 because my kids have ONE WEEK LEFT of distance learning before our summer break begins! Is anyone else baffled by how fast and how slow quarantine seems to go at the same exact time?

My kids are counting down the days and I’m trying to get a game plan put together so that we don’t spend the entire summer staring at YouTube and playing video games. As fun as that sounds.

I’m not sure what our summer will look like right now – our state is starting to whisper about opening things back up but we as a family are planning to continue hunkering as long as we can stand it. Summers past have involved a lot of trips to the library for free camps and checking in with their summer reading programs because one challenge is never enough for my voracious readers.

img_20200509_181650_448

I’ve been making the kids summer reading challenges for a couple of years now to supplement the programs offered by the library and bookstores because those tend to only last us a couple of weeks at best.

Creating these challenges can be tough because my kids are already good readers, and I don’t want to make reading seem like a chore. I’m not going to make them count how many minutes they’ve been reading or how many pages. I don’t want to make a long list of categories that don’t line up with their interests – and often they read such vastly different types of books that I end up having to make multiple challenges – one for each kid.

Anyway – behold: this year’s summer reading challenge! I’ve been pretty into the BINGO format because it lets the kids aim low or high depending on their motivation and gives a fair amount of options. I’m pretty proud of this assortment of categories because I think it will appeal to both my 10 year old and my 14 year old. Wish me luck!

summer reading 2020 bingo

Feel free to save and print this to use with your own kids this summer.

Let me know how they like it!

When do your kids start summer break?

Here are a few challenges from summers past: 2018, 2017 and 2016