Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fun with Planning

Summer has officially begun.  The calendar is finally agreeing with the weather--it's felt like summer for WEEKS.  It also feels more like summer because the family I nanny for has come back from vacation, and I've begun my full days with them.  During the school year, I just watch them two-three afternoons a week.  In the summer, I have them two-three days a week--all day long. 

It's hard to keep three girls occupied all day long.  I know this because I've spent two previous summers telling them to turn off the tv and getting three blank stares.  These blank stares seem to communicate "No tv?  Seriously?  What else is there to do in life?"

Last summer wasn't as bad as the first.  The first summer was blah because we didn't do much of anything.  Last summer, I remember we went on several "outings" to parks and bowling alleys and free kids' movies--and of course to the pool.  I'm hoping we get to do some of those things this summer, too.  But I don't want this summer to be made up of outings and television. 

So I'm going to do something that's really kind of hard for me.  I'm going to attempt to be a planner. 

I've noticed recently that I'm the sort of person that's either all or nothing, black or white.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  I'm not good at balancing.  The reason I've done so well at this weight loss stuff is because I've been a Nazi about it.  I can't do the whole moderation thing...which scares me because I'm getting close to the weight I want to be and am eventually going to have to attempt to maintain my weight instead of try to lose it.  Something tells me that I'm going to have to learn moderation in that. 

It's the same way with pretty much everything in my life.  I have to be uber disciplined or not at all.  There's no middle ground.  And I've realized that if that's the way it is, I'm going to have to start being uber disciplined about the way I spend my summer days with the girls I watch.  I've already made up a (somewhat flexible) schedule for days when we don't have "outings" planned.  It involves lots of reading and educational workbook activities that are going to keep them from forgetting stuff they learned at school.  It involves VERY LITTLE tv.  I'm even going to make them write me stories every week and/or do book reports.  I'm also going to make them exercise.

They're going to hate me.

...but maybe I am learning balance, just a little...

Because I'm planning lots of fun (non-tv-related) stuff, too.  I'm hoping to do some fun crafts and snacks and maybe even some science experiments with the girls.  Today, we made root beer floats to celebrate the first full day of summer.  I'm hoping to do root beer floats AGAIN, only I want to experiment with different ways of making the floats.  For instance, today we made the floats with diet root beer and light ice cream--so the whole float was only about 90 calories.  BUT it had artificial sweeteners in the root beer, and I'm trying to cut those out of my diet as much as possible.  So I want to figure out a way to make a tasty and low cal root beer float without using artificial sweeteners.  I can get sassafras tea concentrate.  I can get seltzer.  I can get Stevia.  I don't know if the girls will like it, but part of what I want to do with this summer is expand their culinary horizons...and if you knew the 12 year old I watch, you'd know that I've got some challenges ahead of me. 

Root beer floats are just the beginning.  I want to make berry parfaits with them.  I want to make smoothies with them (they don't like fruit and veggies, so I'm always trying to sneak them in).  I want to make guacamole with them.  I want to make California Rolls with them.  I want to make fruit kabobs (maybe even with chocolate and marshmallows, if they're lucky) with them.  I want to make homemade ice cream and popsicles with them.  I want to have a pizza day where we make a healthy fruit pizza, a healthy veggie pizza, and a totally UNhealthy cookie pizza (it's okay sometimes--Cookie Monster told me that a cookie is a sometimes food).

I also want to make picture frame word collages and decorate tote bags and get them to do creative things like design their own fashion magazine covers.  I want to do indoor scavenger hunts and make peanut butter playdough.  I'm pretty sure that if I searched online, I'd find a lot of other things that all three girls would love to do. 

And all of the sudden, I'm not looking at this summer thinking, "Oh, snot.  What am I going to do with these girls ALL summer???"  I'm looking at this summer thinking, "Oh, sweet!  I've got all summer to do a lot of fun things with these fantastic girls!"

So I'm not normally a planner, but I'm thinking that a little planning is going to go a long way this summer.  I know I'm going to have to be a little flexible in my plans, and that's going to be hard (moderation isn't my forte, remember?).  I also think it's going to be okay.  Because there's going to be unpredictable stuff like random trips to the library because the six year old forgot she needed to return her books (and if we go to return books, we're going to be there at least a good half hour while the girls look for more books--which is always cool with me).  There's going to be times when outings and activities just happen outside of the schedule I'm wanting to keep.  There's probably even going to be some projectile vomiting and/or extreme moping as far as the California Rolls are concerned (I can hear the 12 year old now--"You expect me to eat SEAWEED?!?!"--don't tell her they put seaweed in ice cream sometimes). 

But you know, I think this summer is going to be good for me in a lot of ways.  I need to learn balance, and I think this is really going to help me.  Because honestly, I've tried the uber discipline thing with my writing, and it's just not happening in the midst of all the other things I'm trying to balance.  I need to find a way for it to fit in with all the other stuff in my life. 

I have a feeling that this autumn is going to bring a lot of good change to my life.  Don't ask me why I feel that way, because I can't explain it.  I just know that when I have a feeling like this, it's best not to ignore it.  But I'm not in any hurry for autumn to come.  Right now I'm going to enjoy my summer and all the wonderful things I've planned to do with three of my favorite young ladies.

I just hope at least one of them likes my guacamole....

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