Ways to Make Summer Reading Not Feel Like Homework

Ways to Make Summer Reading Not Feel Like Homework

Ah, summer—the sun is hot, school is out, energy is high, and let’s face it, for parents this can be a challenging time. Not only does your routine change, but it’s also difficult to keep your kids reading.

Does “summer school work” sound like a chore to your kids? It’s a constant struggle for me to convince my children to do anything other than watch TV or play outside. The question I faced was, “How can I make reading or any other school work be just as exciting as any other summer activity?”

How to Make Summer Reading Not Feel Like Homework

Before school was out for the summer, I made a plan. I wanted to continue helping Cohen read throughout the summer. I heard of the summer slide, which is a term teachers use to describe the learning loss between grades over the summer, and I didn’t want that for Cohen. He had made such great progress throughout the year and was nearing a third grade level that I didn’t want him to fall farther behind.

Find Programs that Have Worked Previously

I looked into several reading programs being offered during the summer months, but they were ridiculously expensive! Plus, the times the classes were offered were not convenient for working parents, so that was a little frustrating! I realized I would need to make it a priority.

Make a Plan

I made a plan to go to the library once a week and have my kids pick out books they wanted to read. I also signed Cohen up for the library summer reading program, which is free! Then, we went to Barnes and Noble and signed up for that summer reading program. Lastly, I wanted him to continue with his frequency folder and have him read the same passage every day. I thought I had a great plan in place.

But life gets in the way. My plans for him to read continues to be pushed aside for the different activities planned in the evenings that Cohen wants to do. My son didn’t view reading as a fun activity and I realized I needed to make it a priority and encourage summer reading. It was time to get creative!

Set Goals

It was time to set some summer reading goals. I had Cohen help me set our goals and create a chart together when he finished his frequency passage. Cohen and I made a “Reading Hall of Fame” bulletin board. After every book he finished, we take a picture and I post it to the board.

Make Reading a Family Event

My daughter starts kindergarten in the fall, so I am trying to make reading this summer a family affair. During the warm weather months, it can be hard for busy, on-the-move families to fit reading in. So we started to set aside some time to read before bedtime. Every family member grabs some books, we turn off all electrics, and read for 20 minutes. We’re also trying to listen to more audio books—while at the library, I found some fun family reads on CD.

Make it Fun

Lastly, his teacher gave me this idea before summer vacation—twice a month during the summer we have a “Cookie and Bookie” where we read a story or two together, he reads one page then I read the other, and when finished we discuss what we read. Then, of course, we bake cookies together!

Granted, these are no substitutes for cracking the books. And I don’t pretend to have any magical suggestions for preventing the summer slide, but I am trying to make reading a priority this summer so Cohen won’t be far behind when he enters 3rd grade this fall.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

My Husband’s “Me” Time

My Husband’s “Me” Time

My husband’s job includes weird hours – some nights, weekends and overnight trips. Recently, he started a night class for graduate school. When he isn’t at work or school, he uses about 50% of that time for himself (i.e., playing sports). I know it’s important for him to keep himself sane and healthy, but I wish he wanted to spend more time with us. I am feeling pretty lonely.

I LOVE being home with the kids but I still want him to have a parenting role beyond a provider. I know it’s wrong for me to feel resentful, especially since I take time for myself, but recently we got into an argument about how he spends his time.

After nine years of marriage, I realize that no marriage is ever 50/50. There will always be one partner that does more on any given day. Forget about it being fair because that doesn’t exist.

“Me” Time or Family Time

My marriage benefits when we both have time for ourselves, either to pursue our own interests or just relax. Personal time allows us to maintain our individual identities, provides opportunities to do things we like to do, and allows us to feel like we have some control over our lives. Alone time can actually help to keep our relationship fresh and less stressful. However, this past weekend, I was angry that my husband wanted to spend his “me” time playing softball.

I spend several hours a week at the gym, so why was it so difficult for me to see that he needs time, too? It wasn’t the game that made me upset, it was the fact that he didn’t want to spend time with me and his family.

Getting on the Same Page

I came to the conclusion that personal time needs for each person varies from couple to couple. What’s most important is that we agree on how much time we want to spend together and apart. The problem that I had with softball was that my husband never communicated to me that he needed that time for himself. If it were handled correctly, we’d each feel like we are getting our fair share. I was feeling that work and school should be included in his “me” time because those times are when I’m home by myself with the kids. However, he thought that that time should not be included. It was a communication breakdown. We both needed to take a step back and realize how the other person was feeling.

During these times, perceptions are more important than the actual number of hours. Even if we spend very little time together or apart, the relationship is fine if that’s what we both want. If either of us has different perspectives, however, the amount of time together or apart can be a source of conflict. He was feeling suffocated, while I was feeling insecure and isolated.

Dedicating Time to Each Other

We often have different ideas as to how much time should be dedicated to each other and ourselves. I tend to want more couple time, usually because I regard it as important for bolstering my marriage and making sure there’s solidarity as a couple. My husband, on the other hand, tends to prefer more time on his own. Now that we know where each other stands and realize what we both need, and our communication is open and honest, my husband spending a couple hours a week at softball seems like an okay trade to me.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

Plastic Surgery after Babies…Yay or Nay?

Plastic Surgery after Babies…Yay or Nay?

Saggy breasts, excess skin and my favorite, the love pouch. Like most women, my body changed after having kids. It wasn’t until I knew I was done having babies that I considered plastic surgery.

Mothers, by nature, are givers. We take care of our children, our husbands, our coworkers, other family members and friends…all before we think of ourselves. It’s rare for a mom to schedule time or activities just for herself, without feeling some degree of guilt that she’s taking time away from her family or work.

My body image is directly related to my self-esteem and how I view myself. When I feel fit, healthy and sexy, everyone benefits. My family sees a happy, confident, energetic mother who serves as a great role model.

Finding Pride in a Mother’s Body

I am proud of this body. It made two beautiful children. This is the body God gave me and I’m grateful. I’ve put in the work, I’ve lost over 40 pounds in the last year and a half, and I continue to workout and eat healthy almost every day. I’m full of energy and overall happier with my transformation. Yet, the excess skin is still there, and I’m self-conscious of my mid-section and my nonexistent boobs. I want to look as good as I feel. My children see me push through every workout. They see me say no to desserts (most of the time). Now, I want them to see my happiness. I want to see my gains in the mirror but all I see is a big stomach.

It is NOT selfish or vain for a woman to want to look good! A mother deserves to look as fit, youthful and toned as she can. Who wouldn’t want to look their very best physical self?

How a mother feels about herself as a wife and a woman is integral to her body image and self-esteem. When we look our best, we feel more secure and reflect that to others, exuding confidence, happiness and overall attractiveness. When a mother feels confident about her body, she is happier overall, her marriage benefits and so does her relationship with her children.

The Pros and Cons of Having Plastic Surgery

I know the pros and cons of having plastic surgery but the struggle I can’t seem to come to terms with is: how can I explain to my daughter that you should love yourself the way you are and that the way you look on the outside doesn’t matter, then turn around and get plastic surgery to fix something about me? However, she sees me struggle and my want for something I can’t seem to obtain on my own. Should that be enough justification? Does it make me a bad mom to say one thing and do another?

For a mom to want to take care of herself and feel youthful, feminine and attractive is NOT self-centered or unreasonable.

Having a surgical procedure is a BIG DEAL. Surgery should not be taken lightly, and planning for recovery time and help with child care, driving and the usual activities of daily living after plastic surgery is extremely important.

As long as you can afford the time needed for surgical recovery, have help in caring for your children and understand fully the risks of surgery, I can completely understand why a mom would consider going under the knife! However, knowing that you should love your body and yourself is the main priority. If you’re happy with yourself but want to enhance or better your body, then there’s no problem with considering plastic surgery.

Schedule Your Free Consultation

Did you know Dr. Cassidy Mitchell, plastic and reconstructive surgeon, offers free consultations to answer your questions and help you decide if plastic surgery is right for you.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

Where Did All My Friends Go? Maintaining Friendships After Parenthood

Where Did All My Friends Go? Maintaining Friendships After Parenthood

Our lives change when we have kids. When did welcoming your little miracle into the world segue into a funeral for your friendships?

Somewhere between all-nighters and ‘should I breastfeed or use formula?’, I stopped thinking about the friends I made over the years.

Or maybe I’m just too tired.

Whatever it is, it’s a problem.

Recently, my friend from college, whom I haven’t seen in a while even though we live in the same city and both have children, asked me my thoughts on balancing relationships outside my family. Weeks go by where I don’t see or talk to any of my friends, and I feel guilty. The catch-22 is that if I make time for my friends, I then feel guilty that I’m not spending time with my family.

Practices, Play Dates and Parties, Oh My!

We all want the best for our children and that means spending quality time together. However, I want to be a well-rounded individual and role model for my children to live a good, full life – one that involves friends.

But as busy parents, fitting in exercise, grocery shopping, laundry or just having some downtime is a struggle. My children’s activities and friendships can consume my time. I spend hours in the stands during soccer practice, waiting during dance class or juggling play dates, parties and practices with our children and their friends. This leaves my own friendships out of the equation.

I’ve also decided that as a working parent my children take priority when I get home from work or have free time on the weekends. I again neglect my friendships with the hope that I can pick them back up when our children are older.

Finding the Time for Friends

Saturday mornings are my ‘me time’. I get to workout and have brunch with some of the women I see at boot camp. I value this time. I suggest that if you have a parenting partner, negotiate who will be off-duty and when. There should be an even split. Use your respective time however you want, but be sure to include seeing your friends!

Now that my kids are slightly older, we’ve been trying to do activities that involve other families. When we head to the bowling alley, trampoline park or children’s museum, the kids get to enjoy playing with other kids and the adults enjoy spending time with other adults.

I need to take advantage of this time to make friends with fellow parents and nurture my existing friendships with other moms and dads. I want to put down social media and reach out to the friends I’ve been neglecting.

As I said, I am a working parent with a job outside the home. I like to take advantage of free time where my kids are already in childcare and invite a work friend out to lunch, meet a friend who works nearby or have a little lunch date with my husband. This helps with maintaining friendships without the help of your children.

Striking a Balance

Being a good friend may present some challenges. I’m still trying to make time for friends, but I know I’ll reap the rewards in the long run. I’m starting to see that as my children get older, my friendships are changing, and I am continuing to develop new friends.

Ultimately, striking a balance between the time I spend with my children and my adult friends will contribute to a full, healthy life.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

Why I Decided Not to Spank My Kids

Why I Decided Not to Spank My Kids

Spanking is a topic that can break a room in half in a matter of seconds. For this exact reason I have been cautious, thoughtful and patient about when I would approach it.

As a child, I received my fair share of spankings and remember hearing rumors of a paddle being used on naughty children in the school principal’s office. Before I had children of my own, I was not against spankings and I even thought I would eventually resort to spanking my own kids as a disciplinary tactic.

When Timeouts Don’t Work

Cohen, my “good child” was easy. If he got in trouble a timeout would do the trick. Still at the age of eight a simple “go to your room” calms him down. But Collyns, my sweet but stubborn daughter who never experienced the “terrible twos,” is now becoming a terror at the age of five. She screams, throws tantrums, chucks objects and slams doors. Timeouts in her room are not working. Now the thought of giving her a spanking seems like an option. I’ve been close to swatting her behind, but my temper can be short.

I’ve found that giving myself an opportunity to calm down helps me parent with a level-head and use these frustrating situations to teach life lessons. Timeouts in her room aren’t working, so she is now getting a timeout on the bottom step. On the step she has nothing to play with or throw. Her new timeout location has become a lot less fun than her room full of toys.

What Am I Teaching My Kids?

I like to be practical and real. Spanking, screaming and threatening changes my child’s response immediately. For those reasons, I understand those forms of discipline, but if I scream and spank, what have I just taught my child? They learn that when someone is doing something wrong and you don’t like what they are doing you yell and hit them. Cut to my child at school and her friend takes her toy. She thinks “I don’t like what you are doing, and it is wrong,” so she hits her friend. Spanking would be my child’s version of hitting.

We’ve gone through phases where my kids resort to physical aggression to relieve their frustrations. As a toddler, my son was a biter. He would bite when he became frustrated. When reprimanding my children for this undesirable aggression, I didn’t want to correct him through physical aggression. At the time I thought this would send him mixed messages and seemed unfair.

The World We Live In

I work in television and I know we live in a world where physical violence and abuse is a topic frequently in the media, on TV and in our communities. I do my best to shield my children from these violent influences or at least explain what they see or hear. We teach our children to respect one another, their friends and teachers, and to know that physical aggression is not acceptable. I do not spank my children and expect that they will never hit me or someone else.

Discipline techniques are a personal decision, but for me and my family, spankings are not our choice.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

The Financial Burden of Daycare Costs

The Financial Burden of Daycare Costs

I have never been more excited and sad to register Collyns for kindergarten. It’s only January but I already filled out the necessary paperwork and made her appointment for her kindergarten physical. August 13 can’t get here soon enough! My last baby will be in school come the fall. Yes, I am sad. Yes, I will cry. But, that means no more full-time daycare! Now I feel like there is a light at the end of this daycare tunnel. Read More

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Like Mother, Like Daughter

I know it’s not Mother’s Day, but it is a time to reflect on the relationships you have in your life and be thankful for them.

A mother-daughter relationship is one of the most significant bonds in my life. It’s amazing, complex and trying at times – but so fulfilling and beautiful! Growing up, and still to this day, my mother’s my best friend. Sure, I was a daddy’s girl, but I knew my mother was always and is still there for me. I was lucky to see and share in the relationship between my mother and grandmother, experience the bond my mother and I have, and now cherish the relationship Collyns and I started. The memories I have with my grandma are precious to me, and I want Collyns to experience that bond between a grandmother, mother and daughter.

Why Mother-Daughter Bonds are Special

When Mitch and I decided to have children, I wanted a girl. I actually wanted all girls. After we had our son, I realized how special a protective older brother is. Then, I got pregnant with our second child, and I knew right away it was a girl. I was excited that I got to share in the same experience my mother and grandmother had as well as the relationship between my mother and me.

I get a lot of questions when it comes to my mother being my best friend. Especially, how we deal with our own mother-daughter issues and struggles. I’m definitely not an expert and don’t have all the answers, but I love sharing my thoughts and experiences.

I found that at every stage in the relationship has challenged from toddler through adulthood. A mother-daughter relationship is the first time we learn about trust, separation and connection, and putting another’s needs ahead of your own. What’s most important to us is open communication and lots of love and understanding!

My mother and I share a lot of common interests. We both like sports – especially the Huskers – going to concerts, traveling and shopping. The saying holds true for me, “I am my mother’s daughter.” She is my number one go-to-gal when it comes to not doing these things alone!

Growing a Bond With My Own Daughter

Throughout my life, I’ve made time for my mother. We’ve always been close, and she’s the main reason I’ve stayed in Nebraska. Every day I call or text her at least once, most of the time it’s a lot more. My husband rolls his eyes every time I say, “Hold on, I need to call my mom.” No matter what my week consists of, I always find time to see her at least once! Recently, we’ve included my daughter Collyns – we love having a girls day!

To sum it all up, I love my mom unconditionally, we have mutual respect, healthy boundaries, honesty and open communication, and that’s why it’s one of the best relationships I’ll ever experience. Hopefully my daughter and I will continue to grow in our special bond we share as mother and daughter.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

I Want My Mommy

I Want My Mommy

Some children say goodbye and hop right into the classroom without a backwards glance. Others have a hard time leaving the protective arms of the parent. Sometimes, it’s the parent who has a hard time letting go. Read More

A Blog for My Husband

A Blog for My Husband

This blog is written for my husband. Most fathers don’t receive the credit they deserve. Well, at least mine doesn’t. When we got married nine years ago, we decided to have kids right away. We just didn’t think it would happen quite so fast. We were thrown into parenthood at the age of 24 and on our first wedding anniversary we had a one-month-old. My husband thrived as a dad. When our daughter was born we thought we had this parenting this down. And then we thought “why not add more to our plate!” Read More

Am I Pushing My Kids Too Hard?

Am I Pushing My Kids Too Hard?

We all want what’s best for our children. But our idea of what’s best for them might not always be what they want. Recently, I’ve noticed myself giving my children little nudges towards the decision I think is correct and what they should make. Now I’m trying to find that delicate balance between encouraging and pushing too hard.

When my son was younger, we made the decision to wait until he was in kindergarten to enroll him in any kind of sports or activities. Now, he’s in second grade and continues to play soccer, and loves it. However, my daughter wanted to take gymnastics. She’s 4 years old and just started preschool. We enrolled her this summer and she seemed to enjoy it and was actually pretty good (that’s not just a mom being proud of her daughter, she was actually good for her age). But now she doesn’t want to do gymnastics, she wants to dance. I’m torn because I want her to stay in gymnastics, but she’s only 4…how big of push should I give her?

I believe getting my kids to do things that are challenging for them will teach them grit and flexibility while also widening their worldview; whether it’s participating in sports, trying out for a play or engaging in any new social situation. But, you always hear famous athletes, singers, dancers say they’ve been doing this talent since they could walk. I see talent in both my children. Shouldn’t I push them to see their potential? My fear is that pushing my children too far can cause them to retreat inward, become resentful or develop even greater anxiety about trying new things.

Is it in their best interest if I push?

I push Cohen academically, urging him to study harder in school. I also push him to try new things and meet new people. I think it gives Cohen a sense of confidence and accomplishment when getting through something fun but challenging. I realized that the most important factor is knowing when and how much to push by thinking about their personality. If I’m met with resistance, then it might be time to examine how my motivations for pushing him in a certain direction. Cohen is older and more outgoing than my daughter Collyns. She is more reserved and I’m worried about pushing her too hard.

So should I push her more?

I don’t want her to make the same mistakes I made. When I was younger I participated in clogging, baton twirling, basketball, volleyball, track, swimming, gymnastics…I did it all! I want her to find something she loves and sticks with it. But how can she find something she wants to do unless I enroll her in all the different activities? But again, she’s only 4!

When it came to gymnastics practice, I repeatedly asked Collyns if she wanted to go and her response was NO every time. So, even though we paid for the month, we didn’t make her go. I felt she might be feeling too pressured, and it was important for me to take a step back. I didn’t want her to feel overwhelmed. I praised her for trying something new and told her how successful she was at gymnastics. I guess it’s on to dance class!

I don’t want either of my kids to feel pressured, especially from me, but I do want them to realize that if they commit to something they should at least try. My goal is to motivate them and help them along the way, even if it’s with a little push.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

What Anxiety Feels Like When You’re a Mom

What Anxiety Feels Like When You’re a Mom

Today has been a rough day. No wait, it’s been a rough couple of weeks! Recently, anxiety told me I couldn’t be a mom, wife, daughter, friend or co-worker. Some days it brings me to my knees and makes me cry for hours. It makes me hide in my room, afraid for my husband and kids to see me so upset. Anxiety makes me believe I’m not good enough.

When It Gets to Be Too Much

Recently, the stress of my job, daily life, and being an organized wife and mother brought me to tears. I cried out for help from my husband and my mother. As a mom, I struggle with the daily demands. I think of myself as a very organized person. But some days I just want to throw the toys in the air, that I just picked up, and say no.

I asked myself why. Why do I have to be the one who pays the bills? Signs the kids up for activities and takes them to doctor’s appointments? Why do I have to lay their clothes out for the week ahead? Make sure their homework is done? It just kept going and I needed help.

Asking for Help

My husband witnessed my meltdown and was frustrated. Not necessarily at me, but he’d never seen me this overwhelmed. He thought he did something wrong. However, it was just the stress of my daily life. My husband realized he needed to step in and help. He asked my mom to watch the kids for an hour so we could sit down and figure out how I could be less stressed.

After deciding what my husband could take off my plate and realizing that I could ask for help, I felt relieved. I could breathe again and not be so caught up in my head with the constant: “Now I need to do this, then I need to do this and don’t forget about this, but first finish this.”

Take Time for You

I want others to know that even though someone appears put together on the outside, we are all struggling with things on the inside. There’s no such thing as perfect. Some anxiety is easier to deal with than others. Mine was realizing I could and need to ask for help.

Some other moms I talked to about dealing with anxiety suggest a form of therapy. Activities like meditation, acupuncture, meditation, exercising, journaling or visiting with a therapist can really help.  The moral of this story? Remember to take the time to care for you, and never be afraid to reach out for help when needed.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

Remember there is help and there is hope. If you’re concerned about overcoming anxiety, Bryan Health has the support you need. Take our free, confidential online screening now.

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