To Do List Tasks

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In an effort to get me into a consistent pattern of writing this summer and do a better job of continually updating my blog with current & relevant posts through our summer adventures, and beyond, I have created a blogging schedule that will be producing several different blog series within different themes to be released on different topics through out this entire summer and in future seasons. It will be a challenge, I am sure I will stumble, but over-all it is in an effort to follow God’s will for me and my writing and share my fun ideas & occasional anecdote with you all. You may have seen my previous blog posts about some of those other blog series’ like

12 Weeks of Virtues Summer 2017 Challenge and Mission: K.O.B.F., well I decided Today’s theme being released is To Do List Tasks where I write a short blog about something on my To-Do List. This may be any number of things, but it won’t be a terribly long blog and it will tackle something on my “to do list” for the week. A project, a chore, a task, ect. if you have anything on your to-do list you would like helpful tips or advice tackling ask away and I will do my best!

My first To Do List Task Topic is…

Summer Freezer Meal Planning!

I love to cook but during the summer I hate to be in the kitchen too long, and we are typically so busy that I need to be prepared in advance or we will go broke by the end of summer eating out or making a million trips to the store in a month wastefully buying a few days at a time. After I discovered this past fall that with some planning and a little prep, my husband and I were perfectly capable of prepping 40+ freezer meals for our family of 6, I knew I needed to apply this same method to a summer menu to stock up for June & July at least.

When my husband and I tackled this meal prep project back in the fall (just before I restarted my blog) we prepped over 40 freezer meals across 2 days of actual prep & assembly and one full day of grocery shopping. Essentially 3 days took the hard work of making dinner out of our lives across about 43 meals. Most of the meals had leftovers which doubled as second dinners or lunches for my husband or myself. With the addition of the handful of times that we still went out to eat or ordered in for something special during the fall and winter, we didn’t use the very last freezer meal until February of this year (which wound up being very helpful through our challenging start to the year with two close losses; Heartbroken…. When heartbreak strikes again…too soon ) All together because of a little planning and some thought out prep & help from the hubby with assembly, 3 days of work translated to almost 90 days not having to stress over making dinner in the think about it, find the right ingredients, prep and assembly sense. In most cases, they were crockpot meals with a very minimal day of effort needed and no more advance thought than the night before to pull them out & thaw.

My To Do List Task for this week (aside from preparing for my youngest daughter’s 2nd birthday & Memorial Day cookout) is to begin gathering recipe’s that will be quick and easy to prepare, allow easy addition of fresh seasonal produce, feed at least 6 people and can be mostly prepped ahead and frozen. If you have any recipe’s you love during the summer months please feel free to share! Here are the few recipes I began gathering so far this evening.

Freezer to Grill Shish Kebobs

Ranch Burgers

Buffalo Chicken Wraps (I have used this freezer recipe before and it is one of my favorites, especially for summer!)

Slow Cooker Pineapple Pepper Chicken Stew

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Buffalo Chicken Wraps recipe and picture courtesy of Once A Month Meals

Friendly tip…one of my favorite places to go for recipes of any kind but specifically freezer recipes is : Once A Month Meals, they have an enormous selection of great recipes with tips on how to properly prep for the freezer. They have an incredible team of contributors who track down some great recipes and test them and you can even join as an official member to take advantage of their shopping lists, ingredient prep steps & menu planning tools available.

I look forward to sharing with you the full meal plan & prep day process documented in a future blog! Also as we get closer to fall I will be turning our previous freezer meal experience that I spoke of earlier, with you into blog form as well because I did photograph our fun & I still have those meal plan documents saved!

Again if you have any recipes for summer that we may love please share those ideas below in the comments! I would love to try some of your favorite go-to summer dishes! Alright now off to the rest of my “To-Do List” items for the week! My kids start summer break in just one day! Go forth and get ready for your summer but don’t forget to check back for more of our adventures!

As always, thanks for reading!

~Rebecca

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Summer Fun Book Buckets!

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It was brought to my attention today that the school year has officially ticked along ever so systematically for the last 9 months and we are now simply less than 2 weeks away from Summer Break Beginning! I LOVE SUMMER, I love, love, love summer, I absolutely without a doubt, no questions asked, emphatically love summer break! (Did I get my point across, I LOVE SUMMER!) So I am going to share with you one of my absolute FAVORITE Summer Break Tips that I do with my girls, “Summer Book Buckets”. It’s become somewhat of a tradition and my children look forward to this at the end of every school year now, but first, a little background before I dive into the specifics!

Here’s some background…

Once I became a mother of two and it wasn’t just me and one little sidekick looking for adventure anymore, summer became quite challenging for me. I found myself hoping and wishing for school to begin by July of my first summer as a mother of 2 children. Entertaining my (then) 6-year-old had become difficult with this little (then) 7-month-old addition to our family tagging along and so by the middle of July I was approaching every day of summer with a “just survive” mentality and by the time I was sending my oldest little girl to 1st grade I was thrilled that I had somehow survived the rest of the days of summer and still managed to check all the things off the back to school checklist. That was until Halloween at least, by that point I was feeling dreary & grey (not unlike the Northeast Ohio weather I lived in) and I was regretting wishing the warm golden days of summer away! Now it was about this time that I realized I needed a better approach to summer so we could THRIVE through our next summer break instead of simply SURVIVING it. I made it through that fall and crept by right into winter able to distract myself, at least a little, with the holiday hustle & bustle and before I knew it we were nearing spring.

{Now here’s a side note: I hate rain, it drives me a special kind of batty, really it’s like nails on chalkboard to me if I’m honest, so I don’t love Spring by any means but there are many things about Spring that I do appreciate, mainly that the warmer weather is on the horizon}.

The fact that Spring was in the air had me daydreaming towards summer again. This year I was determined to soak in the days and appreciate the summer instead of wishing it away. We had a vacation planned, we were also planning a few random camping excursions and I had decided to sign my oldest daughter up for a summer swim class. I was not going to let my being home with my 2 girls for most of the summer wear me down again. I would kiss every last night of summer goodbye having fully appreciated the day…..well that was until I found out I was expecting baby #3 around mid-July of that summer and then morning sickness (all day sickness actually) had me once again waking up with the “just survive” mentality. I did just that until fall, sadly looking forward to 2nd-grade beginning and a break from being sole caregiver, teacher & entertainer all day. My pregnancy sickness didn’t fade (in fact I had it almost my entire pregnancy, bummer) and I just couldn’t get through the holiday’s fast enough so I could get to my 3rd baby’s due date in the middle of March 2010. I had begun my stretch as a SAHM just a few weeks before giving birth and welcoming her into our family in the middle of March. After getting settled in at home as a family of 5, I again began anticipating the summer but this time with a completely new level of excitement.

I have been guilty of  letting myself get wrapped up in the difficult seasons in my past and have been known to wish them away. I was guilty of rushing my life a fair amount as a new mom of my oldest for those first few seasons and it’s something that once I recognized it in myself I have consciously tried to prevent moving forward. We are only blessed a certain number of days here on earth, in the company of others and when we coast through life, when we wish for the next season, when we hope for a future we are unsure of, we are taking for granted the time that we do have and the people we are with. I realized after a health scare with my 3rd daughter in the first month after her birth that we must live our time here intentionally, because we never know when our time or the time of a loved one is up…

 

So here I was at the beginning of summer weather, in the midst of an unusually warm May, just a few weeks away from school being out for Summer Break again except now a mother of 3. My oldest was completing her 2nd-grade year and reading like a miniature little book addict like I was at her age.  She always had a book in her hand and was reading quite well, ahead by at least a grade. She was also turning into quite the little helper with her sisters. It was clear to me that I needed to get ahead of my summer plan so I took to Pinterest. This was just weeks after it launched as a site and it was still pretty ground level. I started searching summer/end of school year ideas and I remember being disappointed that so few ideas came up. I looked through the few results and decided to use them as a jumping off point for what would become my new tradition…………..

Summer Book Buckets:

A  GREAT way to get your kids excited about FUN reading to help keep the brain fresh over summer vacation. A good way to encourage an alternate downtime entertainment idea instead of the electronics. A creative way to make books seem less like a mandatory for a school activity and more like a fun playtime activity. When you encourage reading from a young age and also continue through the summer months I have found it creates a healthy relationship with books for most children. I used plastic beach buckets for the first few years that I did this because they are great tools for the beach or splash park and my kiddo’s love sand and water. I didn’t want the book part of the “Summer Fun Book Buckets” to be the only focus so the beach bucket was a fun idea to start. I would also encourage you to try to include a few other non-book items related to your children’s other favorite summer activities. Here are some picture’s I found from 2 different previous years…

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About 5 years into this plan I switched to metal buckets. It was the year after my 4th daughter was born and I found them at TJ Maxx just in time for Easter. I was lucky enough to find them in each of my daughters’ favorite colors too. They are multi-purpose through the year as Easter baskets & “stair clutter buckets” and they have a chalkboard plaque on the front. I do not use all new books, I typically only include one brand new book if any at all. My plan is always to include at least 5-7 books in each girls bucket (however I have done as many as a dozen or more before).

When I executed this idea that first summer, my oldest was such a good reader and advanced to the point that I needed to have real quantity for her because the substance still needed to be age appropriate, but 1 age-appropriate book kept her occupied for an afternoon if I was lucky. She would read an American Girl chapter book in just a few hours so I would visit the discount bookstores and thrift stores. The recent addition of “Buy Sell Trade FB pages” has given me a new outlet to obtain books inexpensively in the last few years also. I do watch store sales in anticipation throughout the year now that it has become an annual tradition and I stash them until the end of the school year. I find that by choosing titles they are interested in and curious about they will want to dig right into them! As I mentioned before I mix in some non-book summer related items like a new beach towel sunscreen & sidewalk chalk or bubbles to complete my “Summer Fun Book Buckets”.

As a bonus here are a few of my other go to end of the school year ideas that I do with my kids

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Hang poster paper on the door and make a list with your kiddos of things to do over the summer before you go in!

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Crepe Paper the door so when they get home from school they can burst through!

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Ice Cream is always a great way to kick off Summer Break too!!!

I hope this inspire’s you to try one of these ideas to get your kids off to an exciting new start to the 12 weeks of summer! Check back in the upcoming weeks to see some of the ways I plan to keep my kids on top of chores over the summer, limit their electronic use, and instill some character building Virtue Lessons! Plus I will try to update on all of our fun adventure’s, celebrations and new ways to sneak Family Time into our busy summer schedules! I hope you have an AWESOME Summer Break!!!

As always, thanks for reading!

~Rebecca

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