Throwing two pool parties

School is in its final month. The days are getting warmer. OK, we are in Texas so the days are getting HOT. The temperature is already in the 90s. It is time to think about cooling off in the pool. And pools mean it is party time!

My neighborhood kicks off every summer with a party at our pool. And for the past eight years, I have been in charge of it. Yes, this means I have it down to a science so it takes very little work.

Neighborhood Pool Party

This summer’s party will be June 3, so I have a few more weeks to work on this party. The key to our party is to keep everything simple. We started out with only serving ice cream sundaes but the past few years we added in hot dogs, popcorn and sodas.

The popcorn started as something for our Fall Festival, but since we have the machine, we might as well use it. Hot dogs also started out being served at the Fall Festival. It was a pretty easy meal. We just warmed them in a crock pot.

In addition to food, we do a few games. We have done cannon ball diving contests and the limbo but the kids’ favorite and one we repeat each party involves gummy worms and whipped cream. You place a gummy worm on a plate and top it with tons of whipped cream. The goal is for the kids to eat the gummy worm without using their hands. They love it!

Then at the end we give out water squirters, bubbles, chalk and other summer fun prizes to every kid.

This year in addition to planning the neighborhood party which usually has about 70 people (adults and kids), I am throwing a party for all the fifth-graders at my son’s elementary school.

Fifth-Grade Pool Party

It is a tradition at Jase’s school that the fifth graders get a party at a local pool. They are after all “graduating” from elementary school and moving on to middle school. The party is thrown during the school day on the last Friday of the school year.

Because the lady who was going to run the party backed out, I and two other parents stepped up to take care of it. I am the organized one, so I have taken the lead role. This event is more than just one school day at the pool. There is a lot of decorating and planning that goes into this. Thankfully, most parents enjoy helping out.

In order to build up to the big day, we decorate the fifth-grade halls in some sort of water theme. Rather than spend hours working on this, I am just taking items used in previous years and mixing them together to decorate the walls, doors and bulletin boards.

We also decorate the sidewalk with chalk from the school to the pool – which is a little less than half a mile away. This gives the kids something to look at while they walk! This is done the evening before the party. Again, if we get lots of help, this should go well. I have already bought 240 pieces of chalk and have requested parents to bring some with them.

Now the party is from 10 am to 1:30 p.m. We will serve the kids lunch. They voted for Chick-fila. And of course we will have snacks and snow cones. And we have to plan a few things to keep them busy. But really the pool should provide most the entertainment.

It felt like a big chore, but it is coming together well. (I won’t know how well it goes until this Friday!)

And now that I have done this party, maybe I will decide to be in charge of it in two years when Lexie is in fifth grade. But for now, I am just looking to be done with both these parties!

Birthdays as the kids get older

As kids get older, many things change. No longer do they need you to get them a snack or pick out their clothes. As you would expect, their tastes in TV shows and books change as do their friends as they grow up and experience more.

So it is no wonder that birthdays also change. Many parents throw birthday parties for their kids when they turn one. The party of course is more for the parents as the baby has no idea what all the fuss is about. They are all about playing with the boxes and smashing cake with their fingers.

We never did big parties when our kids turned one or two. In fact, they only had parties with us and the grandparents until they turned 5. Then it became parties where you invited their whole class. I use to like doing them at party places as they seemed to be less of a hassle, and I got to enjoy the party rather than run it. (I even wrote a post about that. Click here to read it.)

The inviting the whole class worked for a few years. And then we would just invite the boys or girls – depending on if it was Jase’s or Lexie’s party. And three years ago, we moved to having the parties at home. It gave us more creativity with their themes.

Jase did an awesome Army turned Lego party followed by a How to Train Your Dragon party. Last year, he just invited a couple of friends over for science experiments, video games and a water balloon fight. His birthday is tomorrow. We celebrated with family yesterday, but he is going with some friends to a bowling/laser tag place this coming weekend to celebrate.

For Lexie’s home parties, we first did a Minecraft themed party and this year it was Pokemon. Next year, we will probably try to scale her party back to maybe just a few friends. Or perhaps she will have a sleep over.

Jase next year will be in middle school. And with that, I imagine parties will end. Of course, Lexie is quick to point out that teenagers can have parties too. I just don’t think we will be making that a yearly thing.

I know college students and adults who still throw parties for their birthday. And if the kids want to do that, I am not stopping them. It just isn’t something I have every done. My last birthday party was when I turned 21. It was also my only surprise party. (And the day I got engaged.) I’m perfectly happy celebrating with a dinner out with the family. But we will see as the kids get older what they want to do.

The Busy Month of May

Seventeen school days left….I know kids and teachers are counting down the days. And I am sure there are some parents eagerly waiting for those carefree summer days.

I, on the other hand, usually end up dreading May as it just feels like there is so much going on – picnics, parties, breakfasts, birthdays, tournaments and who knows what else.

School

As the school year wraps up, the kids’ activities seem to increase. First off we have state-mandated testing. This is Lexie’s first year taking the test so she will be a little nervous.

Later in the month there will be a class picnic for Lexie. Since Jase is in fifth grade, he won’t get a picnic. Instead they have a pool party to celebrate him “graduating” from elementary school. And silly me, I volunteered to be in charge of the pool party so I am crazy busy throwing a party for 125 kids and their parents.

Last year in May Jase had a school field trip to Austin (an all-day endeavor that ended at 5 p.m.). It ended up being on his birthday. This year the field trips were in April but again on his birthday he will be taking a short trip over to the middle school to tour his soon-to-be new school.

Jase has one last big project. Fifth graders participate in a living theatre where the students research famous people and then become them in a sort of interactive exhibit. This of course means Jase needs to have a costume so he can become F. Scott Fitzgerald for the morning.

Extracurricular Activities

May also means the wrap of Jase’s soccer season. I don’t know if they have any end of the season events planned but sometimes there is a meal out where they get their medals.

On the last day of soccer, Jase also has a karate tournament. This is a requirement for his next belt test which also is at the end of the month. He is testing for his second-degree red belt which includes an essay and a kata (a series of moves that he has to create).

PTA

May brings the transition month for the PTA. We host our end of the year breakfast where current board members hand over their binders to the incoming board. It is usually a nice meal where we take time to appreciate each other’s hard work. As first VP, I set up the breakfast for the elementary PTA.

This year, I will have two of these meetings. Next school year I will be on the PTA board for the middle school so I will have their breakfast to go too.

On both PTAs, I will be an officer next year so each PTA will have an officer planning meeting this month.

Home

This month, Jase turns 12. We will celebrate at home with family on Mother’s Day (so really a joint celebration). And then Jase will celebrate with a few friends the following Sunday. Yes, it is low key but still takes some planning.

We are also going to the Alamo City Comic Con over Memorial Day weekend. Usually this event has been held in the fall but for some reason it got moved up to May this year. We need to finish our costumes. There are only two more weekends to go so we better get working.

Whew! I am exhausted just typing all this. With so much going on, I am sure this month is just going to fly by.

My anxious child excels at his violin concert

I’ve written before about Jase and how anxious he gets over different events. He is our rule-following boy and always seems concerned with doing what he is supposed to do. He will have panic attacks if he forgets to do a homework assignment. If he is to bring in something to class, you can bet that he double and triple checks that he has it.

When it has been a day where kids can wear PJs or have crazy hair, he is nervous to participate, worrying that he will be the only one. He will be so nervous until he sees that others are dressed in their PJs or have spiked green hair. (Actually this semester he has gotten better about this.)

So you would think that he would be nervous about performing in front of a group. All eyes are on you now, watching, judging. But nope, this never phases Jase.

Recently, his fifth-grade strings group performed as part of a citywide concert. I expected Jase to be nervous. A friend told me his daughter refused to get out of the car the previous year. I imagined Jase doing the same thing. But he didn’t.

I do think he was nervous. It was just that it didn’t seem to control him. He didn’t have trouble sleeping the night before or eating as we drove to the event. Now because I know how anxious he can get, I do what I normally do. I tried prepping him for what would happen. I showed him pictures of the event from the previous day. (It was a four-night celebration, and he was performing on day 2.)

I think the photos helped. It showed him that he would be in the stands versus on the floor of the gymnasium. No nerves showed up as I dropped him off. Heck, he probably would have been more concerned about being late than actually being there.

My husband and I ended up sitting two rows away from him at the performance. He appeared calm and collected as he waited for his turn to rehearse and then later perform.

So here is the boy who will be panicking because he has to do a science lab experiment with worms or the fact that he didn’t finish reading his required Blue Bonnet book, and now he is behaving as if this is nothing to be concerned about.

Of course, I probably shouldn’t be too surprised. The fact is even though he panics over many small things and worries about dozens of everyday events, he has done this before.

He has tried out for the school play, gotten a part in the talent show and often participates in front of his class. Yes, he was nervous about the audition but not to the extent that missing a homework assignment caused. Yes, he had butterflies about performing in front of the whole school and sped through his routine. But he did it without a panic.

It just baffles me at what he gets worked up about and which things he takes in stride. My husband worries about his anxiety but you know what, he has survived all that and keeps on going. I think he will do fine just as he did at his concert.

T is for Technology #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of antagonists.

On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will tie that day’s topic to antagonists but on the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about antagonists from movies, TVs or books. On Wednesdays, my Quote of the Week will be from an antagonist that matches the letter of the day. Enjoy.

We live in a high-tech world. Yes, today is the letter T, and I am talking about technology. Now there are many wonderful things about technology – all the data available at our fingertips, it can be time saving and allows us to see and learn easily about far-off places. However, in the spirit of keeping with the antagonist theme, technology also can be a bad thing.

Studies have shown that using technology changes how a child’s developing brain works. While there are good things (learning and multi-tasking), there are just as many bad things about technology. Kids spend up to seven hours a day using cell phones, video games, MP3 players and computers. They do this instead of interacting with others (learning social skills or gaining empathy) or doing physical activity (which can lead to obesity).

Technology can shorten attention spans and affect children’s ability to fall asleep leading to tired children.

Studies have also shown that it decreases children’s ability to remember facts. They may know how to look it up online, but they don’t retain what they researched (probably because they know they can look it up again when they need to.)

And this doesn’t even get into the cyber-bullying or the fear that kids will share too much personal information online.

Yes, technology certainly comes with a cost. But if we understand that cost, we can do things to minimize it by monitoring our children’s use of technology and establishing guidelines for its use. There can be a happy balance between playing video games and watching YouTube videos and just allowing children to play and use their imagination.

And in case you want to check out my other antagonists from the challenge…

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

E is for Evil (Writing)

F is for Freddy Kruger

G is for Gollum

H is for High School (parenting)

I is for Iron Monger

J is for Jafar (Quote)

K is for Killers (Writing)

L is for Loki

M is for Maleficent

N is for No (parenting)

O is for Oggie Boogie

P is for Professor Moriarty (Quote)

Q is for Questions (Writing)

R is for the Riddler

S is for Sauron 

N is for No #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of antagonists.

On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will tie that day’s topic to antagonists but on the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about antagonists from movies, TVs or books. On Wednesdays, my Quote of the Week will be from an antagonist that matches the letter of the day. Enjoy. 

No, No, No. Today is the letter N which is for the word No, the arch nemesis of every toddler.

“No, don’t touch that.”

“No, stop pulling the kitty’s tail.”

“No, you can’t watch more Blue’s Clues.”

Parents often play the antagonist to a toddler’s fun. The ever-watching parent is of course just trying to keep their child safe, but a toddler won’t see it the same way. There is this person who at times cuddles with them, but at other times makes them do things they don’t want to – take a nap, eat something other than cookies, and takes away all the cool things they find.

Of course, for the parents, they might see it as the opposite way. Every time they ask their precious little toddler to do something, they hear his or her favorite word – No!

“Time for bed, Susie.”

“No, no, no!”

“Let’s put on your shoes, Tommy.”

“No! I don’t wanna!”

So it seems the all-powerful word “No” can be the tool of either the protagonist or antagonist of your household.

And in case you want to check out my other antagonists from the challenge…

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

E is for Evil (Writing)

F is for Freddy Kruger

G is for Gollum

H is for High School (parenting)

I is for Iron Monger

J is for Jafar (Quote)

K is for Killers (Writing)

L is for Loki

M is for Maleficent

H is for High School #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of antagonists.

On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will tie that day’s topic to antagonists but on the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about antagonists from movies, TVs or books. On Wednesdays, my Quote of the Week will be from an antagonist that matches the letter of the day. Enjoy. 

For some high school was the time of their life. For others, it was a horrible experience that they would never want to live through again.

Yes, today is H in the A to Z Challenge, and I am talking about high school.

For me, it seems like a long time ago. This coming May will mark 27 years since I graduated. And it still feels far off for my kids even though Jase will be there in three years.

Of course, I do think about how it will be for him. The high school is so big. I don’t want him to be lost in the crowd. There are currently 2800 students there. This has him going from a class of 125 in his last year of elementary school to a class of 700 by the time he enters the high school in 2020.

And while Johnson High School is a good school, there are all the same dangers of any high school – bullying, cyber bullying, peer pressure, drugs and in general teenagers making poor decisions.

I was never a party girl in high school. I didn’t try drugs. I wasn’t bullied. I do remember not feeling like I fit in at times, but I had a close-knit group of friends. We hung out. We drove past boys’ houses. We had fun, but I don’t recall anything dangerous or crazy. We didn’t go to alcohol filled parties. We just had our own good times.

I can hope that these are the same experiences my kids have but times have changed. It is scary to read about the latest drugs kids take, the high pregnancy rates or the pressure on kids to succeed. High school is a time to learn and grow. And even “good” kids can fall to bad habits. I just have to hope and work toward making sure my kids don’t fall into that category.

And in case you want to check out my other antagonists from the challenge…

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

E is for Evil (Writing)

F is for Freddy Kruger

G is for Gollum