By Gabrielle. Family photo by Darcy Troutman.
You might remember Rebecca from her Living With Kids post. Navy couches? Gorgeous sunshine art in the kitchen? Colorburst kids’ bedrooms? Navy couches? (I admit, those navy couches still make me swoon.)
Rebecca’s written a book called Banish Boredom: Activities to Do with Kids That You’ll Actually Enjoy, which might come in handy during these last few weeks of summer break. She’s fabulous at filling her kids’ days with cool things to do – you’ll see! Come revisit Rebecca, will you please?
Hi everyone! I’m Rebecca and I write a family-friendly lifestyle blog called Not-So-SAHM. (Maybe you remember me from my blue couches!) I think my blog’s name really captures a lot about me and our family.
To start, we are a family who likes to get out and about. I enjoy quiet time at home, but we really are at our best when we’re exploring. Second, while I consider being a mom my number one job, I also do so many other things for work. I just became a published author; I develop content, style, photograph, and write for a wide range of freelance work; and I maintain my own blog. So here’s how I fit all that into a day…starting with wake-up time.
I set my alarm almost every day for both 6.51 and 6.54 am because I know I will snooze the first time and if I fall back asleep, I’m almost certain to snooze again and again. So, two separate alarms do the trick. Recently, our six-year-old daughter Cameron has eliminated the need for any alarm at all — she usually wakes me up around 6.30 to tell me that her own alarm has not gone off and to ask whether it is “morning time yet?” Her seven-year-old brother Kane dutifully stays in his room, but I often hear him listening to an audiobook and playing with LEGOs long before 7 am, too.
My husband Joel works long hours and travels frequently. If he’s home, it’s not unusual for him to not have seen the kids the night before. So we usually call Kane up to join the rest of us so we can share a little family time before the morning chaos ensures. Joel gets to hear a little bit about how everyone’s previous day went and dispense lots of hugs and kisses.
Since it’s summer time, we have sort of a mixed schedule. Some weeks the kids are in camp, others we are traveling, and the rest we’re just hanging at home together. Today is a half-day at camp, so we need to get moving. I dispatch the kiddos to get dressed and meet me downstairs for breakfast.
I think breakfast is super important because it’s often not until dinnertime that I get to really monitor what the kids eat again. So I try to keep breakfast healthy, balanced, and fill them up! They both have pretty predictable breakfast requests. Kane almost always wants either oatmeal or cream of wheat, and either blackberries or strawberries. Cameron would eat pancakes every day of her life if I let her, but she will work in a yogurt parfait with granola or her own concoction of “Cami Special Breakfast Toast,” which is toasted sourdough, avocado smashed with goat cheese, a squirt of lemon, and a shake of salt. It sounds involved, but it comes together quickly.
They both like fresh juice and I’ve been making agua fresca in huge batches this summer. Today we’re having watermelon. Kane chows breakfast and asks for more time to listen to his audiobook before we have to leave. Cameron is the slowest eater I know and I’m usually pecking at her to finish things up!
I don’t really do anything though until I have my coffee. When the weather is warm, I’m a strict iced coffee drinker. I’ve recently become obsessed with nitro coffee, which is smooth and foamy. I like mine with a splash of almond milk over crushed ice. My husband and I try to eat a clean diet about 80% of the time, meaning little to no dairy, no refined sugar, no processed foods, no grains, and no legumes. We don’t always do the best job sticking to it, but I try! So after I get my coffee made, I always have a banana with almond butter. I never get bored of it and it gives me a good fuel for a workout.
The kids’ school is a real drive for us, so during the school year we are usually racing to get out the door. But since it’s summer, we’ve got a little more time. I like to give the kids an academic break, but I’m also determined this year to prevent summer slide. So we make it a point to have the kids do about ten minutes of reading, writing, or math workbooks each morning. They sit at the kitchen counter so I can help them as I’m making breakfast.
We live in a quiet neighborhood of DC right on Rock Creek Park. We’ve heard birds and all manner of animals waking up long before us. There is a woodpecker in the area that loves to terrorize us by pecking on the roof of our house. But only right above our bed. And only on Saturday mornings. At 6 am. Or at least that’s how it feels. So, no worries there this morning. Our neighbors seem to leave for work right around the same time we need to leave for school/camp, so when I see their cars pull off, I know it’s time for the kids to get their socks and shoes on!
We are a one-car family so my husband either takes the bus or an Uber to work. I always drive the kids, and in the morning we listen to an audiobook in the car. I make sure to turn it off a few minutes before we arrive at our destination so we can do proper goodbyes and I can send them off well. Kane loves school and camp. Cami does too, but she still has a hard time separating from me. It’s waterworks almost every day at drop-off, but all smiles when I pick her up!
After drop-off, I hustle back home. I review the daily list I’ve made and plan out what I need to do. I run through my emails and social media. I respond to and clear out whatever I can quickly and then keep others that require more of my time. Because before I lose momentum, I need to exercise. I try to do one active thing almost every day and today I am taking a Solidcore class. Solidcore and running keep me sane.
Solidcore is high-intensity, low impact workout on a megaformer machine — I call it Pilates on crack. I also love to run on the trails near our home. Both forms of exercise are very meditative for me, but in very different ways. When I run, I tend to mentally put any difficulty or pain in a little box and push it to the back of my mind (that’s literally how I think of it when I start out on a run). And doing so lets my mind wander about creative things. I really don’t care about how fast or even how far I’m running. It’s really more about a mental recharge for me. Sometimes I come back from a run and can’t even recall one thing I’ve seen while I was out, but I’m bursting with creative ideas. Solidcore is the complete opposite. It’s so physically and mentally difficult that I can’t really think about anything else while I’m doing it. I sort of have to empty my brain and marinate in being uncomfortable. I’m only smiling in that photo because it’s before class. Mo one needs to see what I look like after!
Once I get back from working out, it’s back to the computer to check for anything new that came in and to frantically write down any ideas I came up with while exercising. I have an office, and I use it, but I also like to change it up and sit out on our deck or in our living room overlooking the park to work. Today I exchange a few emails with friends about meeting up over the weekend and reschedule some playdates. Then I hit up my daily to-do list, which is organized chronologically and I check things off as I go. I don’t have a lot of time before I have to go back and pick up the kids, so I try to do the things that require the most focus and mental energy. Today that’s writing an article about fun summer activities for a site to help promote my new book, Banish Boredom: Activities to Do with Kids That You’ll Actually Enjoy. My goal with Banish Boredom is to help parents maintain their own identifies and pursue their own interests while raising children who are creative, confident, and independent thinkers.
I’ve found each part of the publishing process challenging, but I’ve enjoyed each step. Now that the book is finished, I’m finding that I love thinking of all the different ways to help spread the word. I worked really hard on the book and I’m hoping that people find it entertaining and helpful. I just found out this week that I won a gold level Mom’s Choice Award, so I’m pretty excited to share it with everyone!
In addition to my writing this morning, I’m getting ready for several upcoming book readings and maker workshops. We’re hosting a book signing and workshop at Kit + Ace in a few weeks where we’ll be making mini pop art portraits with the kiddos. I need to have a sample done for the invitation, so I print out brightly colored patterns onto clear paper, sizing and cutting as I go. I love doing this kind of prep because my mind starts to wander and I come up with all kinds of ideas and solutions to things that have been bugging me. This happens to me a lot when I’m reading out loud to the kids too; I’ll get to the end of a chapter and find that while I was reading, I was thinking about something completely different the entire time. I’m always startled when that happens. The brain is such a crazy thing! Today I think of all the things we need to pack for our upcoming trip to the beach.
The kids have camp only in the morning this week, so I pick them up right around lunchtime. During the school year, they eat a wonderfully healthy and delicious lunch provided at school (sometimes I get to go eat with them!). So I’m finding myself at a loss this summer of what to make them for lunch. I don’t know why, but this summer strikes me as particularly difficult. I’m not in the mood to deal with it today, so we head out to eat at a favorite local place to grab a bite.
We sit outside and talk about their soccer camp that morning. Cami focuses on all the friends she made and who she saw about campus. Kane shares a long story about how he made a goal, but another team member fouled someone so his goal didn’t count. How they recount their respective mornings is so telling of their personalities and they are constantly posturing for air time with me. They are very different, but they both seem to love engaging in a good verbal battle just for the sake of the back and forth. It can be exhausting sometimes, but they are the children of two lawyers, so it’s not that surprising I guess!
I am a serious meal planner. Without it, we eat like crap. I plan out my meals 30 days at a time and every month I post a favorite recipe along with our past 30 Days of Dinner. When the kids were little and home with me, I used to love going to the grocery store. I know some people find that stressful and look for that alone time as a nice escape, but I always found it fun. We’d try the samples, look for their favorite foods, and they’d find so much satisfaction in being my helpers.
I find grocery shopping without them now so depressing. It’s like a reminder that they are growing up and moving on. And I always, always overshop and overspend when I go in person. So I order most of our groceries online now. I either do Peapod or Whole Foods via Instacart and have that delivered on Mondays. I also do bulk paper goods shopping from Costco via Instacart too. On Saturdays we frequently head to our neighborhood Farmer’s Market and on Sundays we pick up our CSA, so we get a lot of produce at those spots. And about once a month we do a Trader Joe’s run for certain snacks.
But today after lunch we pop in to the grocery store to grab just a few extra items. I’m in a rush, but the kids insist on acting silly and hopping on one foot through the aisles. Maybe I don’t miss grocery shopping with them. Nah, I do!
After lunch and our errand, we head home and pick an item off our Summer Bucket List to do together. They’ve been on a science kick, so we mix up some fizzing sidewalk chalk to experiment with. Liquid sidewalk chalk is one of Cameron’s most favorite activities and I always let her go crazy messy with it; the cover of Banish Boredom is a close-up of her doing just that. I have to remind her today that baking soda and vinegar are involved, so she shouldn’t pour it all over herself like she usually does!
I worked with the kids to paint a collective mural. Kane insisted he didn’t want to join us, but after he watched from the doorway for a while, he couldn’t resist. They played for over an hour, painting and then fizzing with the vinegar. Combining science and art might be my favorite kind of activity to do with the kids!
After we cleaned up from the science, we put our suits on and meet some friends at a pool to cool off! We feel a little like Caddy Shack caddies this summer; we usually use the DC public pools, but we seem to be on a kick of visiting all the private pools in the area with our friends. The weather was so funny today. It kept threatening rain, but the water held off until after our swim and then poured down to clear our mural away.
After we get back home, the kids head to clean up their rooms (there is no technology time until rooms are cleaned!) and I check and see what I have scheduled for dinner that night to make any necessary adjustments. Sometimes the produce isn’t working that week, or I might not have the time I need to make what I planned, or I just don’t want to cook. But usually I stick to what I have scheduled and tonight’s planned meal still works. I hate wasting food and eating out really adds up.
I usually start cooking dinner around 5 pm. We’re a little late tonight getting home from the pool, but we’ve ordered in the previous two nights so we could watch Shark Week as a family, so I’m committed to cooking tonight! The kids get to each pick a show to watch while I cook. Sometimes they help me, but I also like that as a little alone time for myself. I always have my computer in the kitchen to follow whatever recipe I’m using, so I also like to have a show on, and check up on email while I’m cooking too. I put on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown tonight. I watch the episode about Peru and mentally add places to our wanderlust list.
I decided years ago that I wasn’t going to be a short-order cook, so I make one meal for the family and everyone eats it. I usually add in a grain for the kids, but they eat what we eat. Tonight I made Neal Fraser’s Spanish-Style Scrambled Eggs. I used chicken sausage instead of chorizo to make it a little less spicy for the kiddos, though. I laugh to myself a little that I unintentionally planned to make a Spanish dinner while watching Bourdain and Eric Ripert use chorizo to make a Spanish dish as well. The eggs plus some watermelon do the trick for my crew tonight.
My husband works late, so I make a plate for him and stick it in the fridge. Occasionally he gets home for family dinner, but it honestly makes the kids so bonkers with excitement to see him that it’s almost better for him to arrive right after the kids have eaten. I admit that I can be a little OCD at mealtime, but I cannot stand when I spend a significant amount of time and energy making a delicious healthy meal and the kids are acting too crazy to eat nicely. I know I should ease up a little, but everyone has their thing, right?!
We have a pretty strict evening routine, even in the summer. The kids each shower right after dinner while I clean up. There is nothing I hate more than having to deal with dirty dishes hours after I put the kids to bed, so I don’t even go upstairs until it’s all cleaned up. We spend most of our evening on the upper two floors of our home, so the downstairs is usually lights off by 8 pm.
We meet in Kane’s room for reading time. Cami likes to go first and uses the computer to read books from a program called Raz Kids. It’s been a great tool for her as a developing reader. For every book a child reads, they earn points to “build a robot.” But Cami hoards her points. The first time she “spent” them all, she cried for days about it. So now she just lets them accumulate and accumulate. She cracks me up.
Then Kane reads us a chapter or two from whatever book he’s working on. And they each like to get a little backrub while the other reads. Then I read a few chapters from a big chapter book. We’re on the last pages of Peter Nimble and the Fantastic Eyes, which has taken us a few months to get through. It’s thick and the kids have a lot of questions as I read. We do a Friday Five post every week that includes whatever we’ve been reading. I love to see what other people read with their kids!
I try to wrap up reading around 8.30 and then each kiddo has an elaborate nighttime routine they like to do with me as I tuck them in. There are nights when I am exhausted or just plain over the day, and I wish I could just shout a goodnight from the door or kick tuck-in duty to their dad. But most nights I am grateful that they love to be comforted by me. And no matter what happened that day, even if they’ve done something I’m upset about, I make sure they know how much I love them. I try to tell each of them I’m proud of them about something very specific. And if they have something to work on, I try to be encouraging about how we can do that the next day together.
I then head up to the parents’ floor to do any sort of household things that didn’t get done that day: fold the laundry, order groceries, etc. For the life of me I cannot get laundry put away during the day, so I often sneak back down to their rooms to put clothes away while they’re sleeping. If my husband is home, we usually put on a show in our office and both work on our computers until bedtime. If he’s traveling, I put on anything Bravo TV and do the same by myself. I upload and edit photos, write my blog, proofread things I’ve written for others that day, peruse Pinterest, and update the next day’s to-do list. I like everything to be organized and wrapped up before I go to bed. Tonight I finish editing photos for a post I’m writing for The Land of Nod.
I recently read somewhere about how disturbing to your sleep looking at technology close to bedtime can be. So I generally try to climb in bed and read a book for a while. I keep getting in situations where all my library hold books come in at one time and I am forced to rush through them or return and get back to the bottom of the list. It’s driving me nuts. I read for a while, but I still can’t help but check my email and social media one last time before bed. It’s such a bad habit!
The last thing I usually think of before falling asleep is that I can’t wait for my cup of coffee in the morning. I mean that both in the sense that I literally am so excited for caffeine, but also in the sense that I almost always feel like I need a do-over about something I did that day. Whether I snapped at the kids, ate a whole chocolate bar, or I’m anxious about the way I handled a work situation, I think about the things I’d like to try and be better at the next day. I focus on going over them and calming myself about them so that they don’t wake me up in the middle of the night. I try to think about it less as I’m beating myself up over things and more of “Well, that didn’t go the way I wanted but there’s always tomorrow.”
Rebecca, I’m exhausted! Your summer busy-ness and organizational prowess are enviable. As is your ultimate resolution to do better tomorrow. I love mornings for that reason, too. Thank you so much for spending the day with us!
In terms of meal planning, I super envy Rebecca for being able to plan it all out 30 days at a time! How about you? What’s been working best for you this summer?