How to Maintain Your Zen During Summer Chaos

School's out for summer (hopefully you sang that)! Okay, maybe not quite yet, but soon. The kids are home. What do we do now?! When I had a more traditional nine to five job, the summer schedule was pretty much the same as the rest of the year, just with extra childcare. Now that I work from home and have a less traditional schedule, it calls for a little more creativity. We have things planned. This summer will end with a road trip to drop the oldest “kiddo” at the University of Nebraska. Before then, we will take our traditional summer road trip, and the youngest two will do a couple weeks of camp. There will also be swimming lessons, continued tutoring, family in town, but to fill the gaps, it's "Camp Mom."

I always find myself both dreading and excited for summer break. Since my kids are older, they are fairly independent, so I'm able to take them to the park without hovering and enjoy sitting on the beach without worrying about how much sand they are eating. The dread comes from knowing I have to plan activities, and revise our usual schedule for the short amount of time everyone is home for the summer, all while balancing my work schedule and making sure I am able to get everything done and fulfill my commitments. The excitement comes from knowing I get to plan activities and we get to have a more flexible schedule for the summer. I decided I needed to make a plan to keep us on track and trick the kids into thinking having a schedule is a fun summer activity! 

Here's what I came up with:

Make a summer "bucket list." I have been adding things to a list in my phone whenever I hear/read about something that sounds like it would be fun for the summer. (Thanks to Queen of the Land of Twigs and Berries for this brilliant idea!) I'm going to have the kids each pick a couple things they want to do and we'll create a list we can check off over the summer.

Responsibility charts. The kids all have jobs they do around the house during the school year, but during the summer, when they are home more, we add to them.

Daily schedules. Each night, before bed, we're going to sit down and plan out the next day. My youngest is currently working on elapsed time and paying attention to the clock, so this exercise will also help him master that skill. All of the kids like to know what "the plan" is, so this way they can help map out the day, know what's coming up and be ready for it. These daily schedules will also include time for keeping their little brains sharp. Sorry kids, no slacking during the summer!

Plan out the week with my husband. To lessen the crazy during the week, I plan to keep my husband in the loop and ask for help when I need it. I'm really bad at this and trying to be better. I already know there are several days when two or more of us need to be in multiple places at the same time, and that is going to require coordination!

All of these ideas can be adapted for younger kids as well. Kids crave structure from a young age and like to participate in the planning process. Find what works for your family and keep it as simple or as structured as you like.

I really do love the summer and the extra time I get to spend with my kiddos. They are all growing up so fast, so I very much want to cherish this time and cram as much fun into the summer as possible. Just want to make sure I don't lose my mind while doing it!


Parenting is Exhausting!

Parenting is Exhausting!

We recently took a family road trip. We drove from Chicago to Nashville and had a lot of big fun. Our kids are champs in the car (translation: they watch a ton of movies and play tons of games on their various devices!), and we previously road-tripped to NYC for winter break, so this drive was nothing!  That said, after a long day of driving, my husband was exhausted, the kids wanted to swim and I got to be the one to watch them. Sure, I could have thrown on my suit and jumped in the pool with them, but I just didn't feel like it. As I was sitting there watching them enjoy the pool, I could feel myself growing irritated. Not at them, just cranky in general. So, after the kids were done, I brought them back to the hotel room, changed into my gym clothes, passed the kids off to my hubby and headed to the hotel gym. A half hour on the treadmill was all I needed to feel like myself again. A little sweat, a little quiet, a little kid-free zone. This small amount of time reminded me of how crucial it is for moms to take time for themselves. It isn't always easy, but it's so very important.

Even though we aren't country fans, we had a great time at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Whether you work in or out of the home, moms seem hardwired to do the majority of the worrying and feeling guilty, and therefore are generally the ones on the back burner. This is not to say that dads don’t kick ass, because they really do, they just seem to be better at taking time for themselves.  So moms, instead of letting ourselves go and/or being resentful of our significant other’s ability to hit pause when needed, I’ve put together a few ideas that will help take great care of you and your little ones, and make your life just a bit easier.  Bonus, these are all mom-owned businesses, so you’ll be taking care of yourself while helping out another mom. Win win!

Sweat it out.  This is my go to. When I can feel myself losing it, I throw on my shoes and hit the gym or head outside for a run.

●     Active Moms Club- Cassandra can help whip you back into shape post baby and beyond. She offers group classes as well as personal training. Her classes are encouraging, engaging, and a great way to meet other moms.

●     Primary Crossfit and Yoga- Located in Uptown, this gym offers the best of both worlds. Sweat your booty off one day and soothe your soul (and body) with yoga the next…or do it all on the same day if you can!

Pamper yourself. My other favorite thing to do. There’s nothing like fresh hair or a fabulous mani/pedi!

●     Nails Boutique- Tucked across Webster Ave. from Oz park, this little gem is my go to. Great conversation is always had and, of course, great nails.

●     Chroma K8- This adorable "beautique" is so environmentally responsible, they used mostly vintage furniture when they remodeled. I have seen some very fabulous hair walk out of this salon, including my own!

Get stuff done. Do you need to drop off the kids for a few hours? All day? Do you need a change of scenery, and a place for your kids to play safely? These places have you covered.

●     Take a Break Playcare- I can't say enough about this genius concept. Clearly mom created! At Take a Break, you can drop in and play (with your kids) for a couple of hours, or you can drop your kids off and actually get something done! They offer care for newborns up to age 13. Genius, just genius.

●     Purple Monkey Playroom- I love the coziness of this play space. Purple Monkey is the perfect alternative to the park on those days when you need to let your kiddos run around, but don't feel like worrying about how much bark they're eating or making sure they don't run into an oncoming swing. The park is great and all, but man, it's exhausting chasing tiny people around! Here, you can have a cup of coffee, chat with other moms and ensure that your little ones are nice and ready for nap time :)

●     Little Beans Cafe- Another great indoor play space, that offers locations in both Chicago and Evanston. This is great for smaller kids, but also offers options for older kids as well.

Birthday help. Once you have kids, you find yourself either going to or planning a party, constantly. My son has three parties to attend in the next week. If you are pressed for time (who isn't?!), these fabulous businesses can help.

●     Building Blocks Toy Store- Katherine and her team are AMAZING. You can call the store (two locations, Wicker Park and Lakeview), tell them what you want, pay over the phone and they will have it wrapped and ready for you to swoop in and pick up en route to the party. Not sure what the perfect gift is? If you give them a price range, and some ideas of what the birthday kiddo is into, they will hand select something for you. It doesn't get any better than that in my book. They also have a great selection of party favors, including personalized items that can be ready in minutes. Also great for teacher gifts and holiday.

●     Chicago Custom Cakes- Libby has a great eye for design and creates the cutest cakes. Whether you need a smash cake for you little one's first birthday, or a more detailed creation of whatever character your older kiddo is currently obsessed with, Chicago Custom Cakes has you covered.

Hopefully this list provides a few helpful options that help you recharge and refresh. You work hard and deserve a break. Pat yourself on the back, wipe the spit-up (or banana, or yogurt, or paint, or...) off your shirt and keep on trucking, mama!