Still trying to limit my kids’ extra curricular activities

When my kids first started school, my goal was to not have them over scheduled with activities. In fact in January 2013, I wrote a post about keeping their activities to one extra-curricular activity per child.

Well, now that they are older (Lexie is 9 and Jase is 12), it has proven to be too hard to keep that one activity goal.

Jase receiving his second degree red belt in May 2017.

It all started last year when Jase was in fifth grade. He wanted to return to soccer, but he was still taking karate (which he began in kindergarten). Ok, I thought. Two activities were fine. Then during the first month of school, the middle school orchestra came to perform as a method of recruiting members. He wanted to do strings which was free (except for the violin rental.) So he ended up with three activities.

At that time, Lexie just had one – gymnastics.

A new school year has begun, and it is time to select activities for this school year. I don’t dictate what activities they join but the only stipulation is that once they start something, they must continue through that season/session. If after that they don’t want to continue, then they are free to stop and pick a new activity.

Lexie’s rendition of the Pokemon – Fennekin.

Lexie decided in August that gymnastics was not her passion and wanted to stop. She had been doing it for a year and a half. She loves art so I signed her up for an after-school art class that meets once a week for 12 weeks.

She also likes to sing so she will also be joining choir. This school group meets twice a week before school. She will have one performance during the holidays and a field trip to sing at another location – usually a nursing home.

Jase right now has two activities. He is still doing karate. He is currently a second degree red belt. He is also in the orchestra. Now orchestra is a class at his middle school, but I am also counting it as an extra-curricular activity as they will sometimes have after school practice, and they do have performances and competitions throughout the year.

While he currently has two activities and I would be happy with him limiting his extracurricular activities to these, I am still encouraging him to find a club at the middle school he might want to join. I think joining a club will be a great way to make friends at his new school. But if he doesn’t find one that interests him that is fine too.

As it is, I think two activists a piece are just fine for them. I like keeping them busy, but I don’t think kids need every minute of their day scheduled. They need time for homework, and of course they need down time where they can just have fun and enjoy their childhood.

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A Mouse in the House…again

It is the sound no parent wants to hear at 3 a.m. Lexie was crying. Now she is 9-years-old so she rarely wakes up crying. I stumbled to her room, assuming she had had a bad dream.

“I saw something,” she said. “I saw something crawl across the floor!”

Nikki

At first in my sleepy state, I assumed she had been dreaming. Then I noticed her cat Nikki was looking at a pile of toys by the closet. I had no desire to know what kept her interest (plus I had left my glasses by my bed) so I did what many women would do – I called for my husband.

Yes, I am thankful he was home because it was a mouse in the pile of toys. Now before you think we live in a shabby, mouse-infested place, let me assure you we do not. What we have is three cats, two dogs and a pet door that is always open. This means that at any time, any of these animals can bring home their latest catch.

We have had all sorts of live creatures – frogs, snakes, lizards, bugs, birds and of course mice. Many times I have had to try and chase these animals out of the house or pick up their dead bodies. While my husband hates snakes, I actually find them the easiest of the creatures to handle. Well, I guess handle is the wrong word. I don’t pick them up but they are easy to shoo with a broom out the door. Much easier than the birds that can’t seem to find the open door or the mice and lizards that run the wrong way.

Now the few mice we have had in the house are not tiny little mice that fit on your palm. These are field mice. Heck, for all I know they could technically be rats. It isn’t like I would know the difference. All I know is that I don’t want them in my house.

So, the other night, my husband came to our rescue. He trapped the mouse in a box and released him back outside. By now, we are all awake. The kids and I are sitting on Lexie’s bed. I reassure them that it is only one mouse and there are not likely to be more in the house.

They both request my husband check their rooms. He spends a good amount of time doing that while I talk to them about Nikki protecting them (even though she most likely is the reason the mouse was in the house.) We tuck them back into bed and return to ours. We are both surprised that the kids didn’t protest more about staying in their own beds.

We have spoken too soon.

A few minutes later, we can hear the kids talking. Lexie wants to sleep in Jase’s room but of course she doesn’t want to sleep on the floor. There could after all be a mouse down there. Jase’s bed is not really big enough for the two of them now. (I’m not sure it was ever big enough but they have slept in it together before.)

I bet you can see where this is going…yep, they both ended up in our bed. Thankfully, our bed is a King but even then, it is tight to have four people in it.

I know plenty of parents who allow one or more of their kids to climb into their bed at night and sleep. I have never been one of these parents. I like my space. I do not want a kid sleeping on top of me or kicking me in the legs or back. I simply don’t sleep well with them in my bed so it is very rare that the kids sleep with us.

But there it was 3:30 a.m. and we were all in the same bed. Nikki even tried to join us but I think she realized there just wasn’t room.

I’m happy that ordeal is done. I must say I don’t like additional live animals in the house at night. I would prefer the kitties keep their catches to the outdoors but I know that isn’t going to happen. So unless we are willing to make them indoor kitties, then I am just going to have to get use to the occasional nighttime visitor. I just hope my husband is here for the next one too.

Preparing the kids for hurricane-related storms

Destruction in Rockport from Hurricane Harvey

We live in Texas. Recently, Hurricane Harvey came to visit causing massive destruction to the coast and way too much rain to the city of Houston. We live in San Antonio which thankfully was pretty much untouched by the destruction.
 

But it did bring up some conversations with the kids, especially Lexie. Jase is typically our worrier but he seems to do fine with reassurance that we have a plan, that we know what we will do if an emergency comes up.

Lexie, on the other hand, is typically not a worrier, but she does become obsessed with certain topics. When she was in preschool, she became obsessed with death. Now her obsession is with hurricanes and tornedos.

It was the Thursday before school started that people in San Antonio finally accepted the fact that Hurricane Harvey was coming. People began buying water, batteries, flashlights and stocking up on canned goods. There were tons of reports about filling up your bathtub with water and having ways to cook if the power should go out.

Of course, for us that Thursday was filled with back to school activities at both schools. On Friday, we ran last minute errands before having the kids’ friends over for one last afternoon of fun before the school year began.

It was on our trip to the music store to tune up Jase’s violin that the kids first realized the severity of the possible weekend weather. I had already told them that we were cancelling our neighborhood’s Back-to-School pool party due to the predicted rain.

But they didn’t know how severe the storm might be until we decided to stop at Wal-mart on our way to the music store. I just needed a box of cereal and perhaps some fruit for the hoard of kids that were coming over in the afternoon. But I told the kids that if the store was overrun with people buying water (there was already a shortage by this time) that we would just do without our two items. Luckily, it wasn’t busy so we got in and out in just a few minutes but this started the whole hurricane conversation.

Now, San Antonio is 160 miles from the coast. We are not going to be hit with the full devastation of a hurricane. The land between us and the ocean will slow down the storm’s most destructive forces. What we are most likely to get is the strong winds and heavy rains – exactly what Houston received.

We talked about the possibility of massive amounts of rain and that city officials were recommending people stay home over the weekend. We talked about losing power and having to eat things in our pantry that didn’t need to be cooked since we don’t own a grill or camping stove.

Jase was reassured that we had a plan but Lexie was worried. What if things got too bad? What would we do? Had she ever been in a hurricane before?

Map of projected path for Hurricane Harvey as of the Friday before it hit land.

I reassured her that we were far from the location that the hurricane would hit. (Of course, at this time it was only a category 1 Hurricane. It would be a category 4 by the time it made landfall.) We would be fine. We repeated this over and over but she still worried.

We reassured her that many officials were watching the hurricane and we would be updated on its location and strength at all times. If we needed to evacuate, we would do that.

That brought additional concerns like the ones we had when we ran through a fire drill last summer. What would happen to all our stuff? What would we do about our pets?

Flooded streets in Houston after Hurricane Harvey.

As it turned out, none of this worry was necessary. The weekend came with rain but we got far less than the 12 to 20 inches originally predicted. Instead it all landed on Houston, flooding the streets that we had just visited over the summer. (Houston received over 50 inches in a four day period.)

With the rain fading for us by Monday the thoughts of the hurricane were pushed out of their minds as they started their new school year. We don’t watch a lot of TV so they have not been inundated with photos and video of the destruction of the coast or the massive flooding in Houston.

But they do hear about the firefighters, police officers and just regular citizens who are helping those devastated by the storm. They have seen our community come alive with offering shelter to evacuees and raising money and supplies for those who lost everything. Both schools have hosted food and clothing drives to help those in need.

It is amazing how everyone in Texas comes together in these trying times. People give their time to help strangers. They donate and volunteer and give and give as much as needed. It will take a long time for the areas to be cleaned up but it will be done. And I am glad my kids will get to see that type of dedication and teamwork. But I hope the sight of the flooded streets in Houston doesn’t cause Lexie to panic the next time a hurricane comes our way.

It’s that time again – the kids are back in school

The parents are celebrating today! School has begun for another year.

I love spending the summer with Lexie and Jase but there always comes a time when I am ready for my normal routine to return.

This morning brought an extra mix of nerves and excitement for Jase. It is his first day at middle school. Normally he would walk but since we are still dealing with the rain brought by this weekend’s hurricane, I opted to drive him.

Middle school will be so different from what he is use to. No longer does he just have one teacher. Now he has eight. He has to navigate the halls to each class and lunch is no longer the organized by class event it was last year. This past Thursday, Jase went to “Pup Camp.” (The name comes from the fact that the school mascot is a timber wolf and his grade is the lowest, newest grade at the school.) At “Pup Camp,” the sixth graders learn where their locker and classes are located. Jase was happy to find he has a class or two with some friends.

We did go back to the school the next day to let him practice opening the combination lock on his locker a few times. He finally got it down, and I know that makes him feel better that he won’t be struggling on the first day.

Since this is Jase’s first year at middle school, it means it also is the first year for Lexie to go to elementary by herself. She began fourth grade today. Her teacher is Mrs. Vandertulip. This was Jacen’s fifth grade teacher last year so Lexie is really excited to have her. Last Thursday she got to take her supplies to class and pick out her seat. She currently is sitting with a group of friends. But even if the teacher splits them up later, I don’t worry about Lexie. She is so outgoing and friendly that she will be fine with whomever she sits near.

And as always, her backpack carries a letter to her teacher. In it I fill Mrs. Vandertulip in on Lexie’s eczema, allergies and ADHD. We will have a special meeting with the teacher later in the year about Lexie’s health issues but I always like the teacher to have the info on Day 1. (Technically the teacher can review the notes from last year’s meeting but I like the personal touch.)

So now I am back at home and the house is quiet. People keep saying I will have tons of time on my hands but that isn’t true. I have two PTAs that I am active on and of course my latest novel to complete.  Before I know it, the kids will be home, excitedly telling me about their days. I’m looking forward to that.

Joining my son’s middle school PTA

When my son started kindergarten six years ago, I joined the parent-teacher association (PTA) at his school. Being in the PTA allowed me to know more about what was going on at his school.

This year, Jase will move to middle school. It only seemed natural that I would join the PTA there. My original goal was to just be a volunteer at school and PTA events. I thought maybe if there was a committee chair position open for something easy that I might do that.

Ha…it is never that simple. Last April, the middle school PTA was trying to fill one of the hardest to fill officers position – the Treasurer. So many people just don’t seem to want to be in charge of the money.

I, however, had already been treasurer for the elementary PTA. While I am not accountant, I do handle the money side of my husband’s law firm and have handled my family’s money ever since my husband and I got married over twenty years ago.

At first, I was hesitant to take such a large role on a PTA that I know nothing about. Plus, I am working on my fifth novel and had made a vow to spend more time working on it instead of doing so much volunteering.

But then person after person turned down the Treasurer position. It isn’t a position you can leave open so I decided I would do it even though this would mean I am an officer on two different PTAs at the same time. (I am first vice president in charge of programs and parent education on the elementary PTA.)

It has been a few months since I was elected and school is about to start, but I still feel I know very little about the middle school or the PTA’s programs. At least with the elementary school, I held a chair position for three years before I became an officer. This allowed me to understand our programs and goals before I was one of those people running the show.

I don’t have that luxury with the middle school. I am just going to have to learn on the go. So far, I have been to one officer meeting where we met the new middle school principal and new assistant principal.

This week will start the real work of the PTA. We will be decorating the bulletin boards, helping with orientation set up for the incoming sixth graders and hosting a welcome back breakfast for the teachers. And in most cases, I need to be there as money will start coming in for membership. And next week school starts so there should be more membership money rolling in.

And before I know it, the PTA’s big fundraiser will be happening (on my birthday). The money part doesn’t worry me. It is more not knowing what I need to do at each event. I guess I will figure things out as I go along. The real trick will be balancing the commitments of two PTAs. Luckily, both PTAs communicate with each other and do not usually plan events on the same days. But even with that, it still going to be a busy school year.

Getting into an exercise routine

I have written numerous times about trying to lose weight by counting calories. (Check out those posts here, herehere and here.) And it does work. Each time I have watched what I ate and counted my calories, I have lost weight. The problem comes when I reach my desired weight and stop counting. I slowly go back to my bad habits of eating when I am not hungry or eating whatever I want rather than making smart choices.

So as you can imagine, I weighed myself earlier this summer and realized I am at a weight I would rather not be. I would love to lose 5 lbs or better yet 10. Sigh. I think many women always feel that way. And while I know counting calories works, I just wasn’t ready to do that again since we were about to go on vacation, which means more eating out.

Instead, I decided to start watching what I ate (but not going so far as to drastically cut the calories) and concentrating on eating only when hungry and not when I had a craving for something sweet (or salty or whatever.) I also decided it was time to start exercising.

I used to not really worry about working out because I walked a lot. I would walk the kids to and from school EVERY day in my heeled sandals. But for some reason – laziness, the fact it is so hot here in Texas, or the kids just liked when I drove to pick them up – I stopped walking as much. I use to walk any time I needed to go to the school for meetings or the PTA, and suddenly I seem to be driving to the school all the time rather than walking.

So my plan was to start exercising more at home. Now I don’t like running and find walking boring – plus like I said I live in Texas, and it is HOT (104 degrees this past weekend). Heck, I really don’t enjoy exercising at all. I don’t get that rush of endorphins that some people talk about after their workout. Anyway, I have some DVDs with 10-minute workouts that I use to do so I thought I would start with that.

The problem with exercising is that in the past, I have never stuck with it for long. I would usually start off the New Year with plans to exercise, but then I would end up getting sick and get out of the routine. Or life just got busy and exercising wasn’t a top priority. Heck, I can’t even make writing a top priority, and I love that.

So in July, I made two changes. I made both exercise and writing top priorities. Instead of putting off writing until I have time, I have been doing it first. I have set a minimum I want to do and have been pretty good about following through. I have not only finished my first draft of my latest novel I am well into draft two because of my dedication. (Of course, course my PTA responsibilities pick up this month, so we will see if I can keep this up.)

The other change was to start doing 20-minute workouts three days a week (Monday, Wednesday & Friday). My husband also purchased a stationary bike with the hopes that we both would use it. I have been trying to use it three times a week and using it if I don’t get to my DVD workout. It is pretty easy to use while watching TV.

I must say I have been doing pretty well with this new exercise routine. Of course like my writing goal, I have to see if I can maintain this routine when PTA responsibilities pickup.

Now has this exercise plan helped at all with weight loss? Not so far. I know I need to get better at watching what I eat, but it is hard during the summer when the kids and I are out and about. Maybe after school starts and I get i a school-time routine, I will add counting calories back into my life. Until then, I will just keep exercising and writing.