How to host a neighborhood kindergarten breakfast

25 July 2024

A highlight of June: hosting a kindergarten breakfast in our neighborhood! This was a very, very low-key event – so low-key that it almost feels not worth detailing – but it’s been a sweet tradition in our neighborhood for many years and was a great comfort to me when June was a rising kindergartner. Today, I thought I could offer a few ideas (and lots of encouragement) if you, too, might like to host one!

The background on our neighborhood’s kindergarten breakfast:

Our neighborhood has been holding a breakfast for rising kindergarteners for at least as long as we’ve been here. (I remember thinking it sounded like the coziest tradition when we moved in ten years ago, sans children!)

The first time I actually attended was in 2021, when June was getting ready to make her elementary school debut. Though I had nothing to compare it to, it felt like a bit of a muted event – which makes sense, since things were still opening back up after the pandemic. There were just a handful of families in attendance, but what we lacked in quantity was made up for by quality – including a pair of powerhouse moms with four kids each, all of whom attended June’s future school. Getting to chat with them and ask them questions went a long way toward putting me at ease.

It was my desire to pass that sense of ease onto another new kindergarten parent that made me say “yes” when a request went out for a breakfast coordinator earlier this year. After confirming a date with the head of the social committee, I was given a budget of $200 and carte blanche to do pretty much whatever I wanted… my ideal scenario, ha!

Planning a kindergarten breakfast:

In our neighborhood, the kindergarten breakfast is open to all rising kindergartners, no matter what school they’re planning on attending. Since our public and private options include year-round schools, we hold the breakfast in June. (This feels early for those on traditional calendars, but the year-round school year starts in July!)

We got the word out in a few ways: we included the details in our neighborhood’s email newsletter. We made a Facebook event and posted in the neighborhood Facebook group. We set yard signs at a couple of key intersections, and put a signboard out by our neighborhood clubhouse a few days before the event. Thankfully, this was all taken care of by the social committee!

We ended up with about 15-20 kindergarteners (and their parents and siblings) in attendance, which I was pleasantly surprised by!

Kindergarten breakfast ideas:

We hosted our kindergarten breakfast at our neighborhood’s clubhouse, which has a wide, covered porch and is right next to the neighborhood playground. The event was from 9:30-11am on a Saturday.

We did, indeed, keep things very simple. I set out tablecloths I already owned and added this paper ruler runner on top. We arranged the food on one table: juice boxes, chicken minis and coffee from Chick-fil-a, donut holes from Dunkin, and mini muffins from Publix. Simple, simple, simple!

A few more fun details: these composition cups for coffee and cheery red (apple-esque!) plates for food. And these striped napkins, which just seemed to have a “school” vibe to me!

The main activity for the adults was simply mingling (we set out name tag stickers!), chatting, and swapping information :) We also had a little bracelet making station, inspired by June’s and my kindergarten tradition. At just $9 (!), this bead kit was perfect and we still had plenty left over after the party.

We also printed copies of Whitney’s summer book BINGO card as a sort of parting favor. Aside from making bracelets and scarfing snacks, the kids pretty much just ran in a pack from the playground to the porch and back – and seemed to have a great time.

And that was pretty much it! I loved getting to meet other kindergarten parents, loved seeing Shep meet some kindergarten buddies, but I think my favorite part (rather selfishly) might have been knowing that I played a small part in keeping a beloved neighborhood tradition alive and well. In a world where a lot of people don’t know their neighbors or the families at their kids’ schools, I’m grateful for the tight-knit communities we get to be a part of – and willing to do what I can to strengthen those bonds.

And you can do the same! If you’re reading this with a bit of sadness because you wish your neighborhood had an event like this, you can be the one to make it happen! You don’t have to wait for someone else to create the kind of place you want to live!!

That’s just what my friend Bethany did, and to round out this post, I thought I’d share a bit from her perspective. After hearing me yap about my plans, she decided to put together a little celebration for the kindergarteners on her street (including her son!). Here she is with the details:

One of my big, dreamy adult hopes is to be the home where the kids hang out. So it feels like we hit the jackpot when we landed on a street with more than 50 kids in middle school or younger. My oldest and four other pals on our street are starting kindergarten this summer (year-round school!). Always looking for an excuse to gather friends with all the comings and goings of summer schedules, we threw a kindergarten ice cream party to celebrate their transition.

Most of the kinders will attend the same school, so we scheduled the party in the afternoon, following Meet the Teacher at our school. The logistics were simple: I texted the other parents to share the invite, and each family graciously asked what they could bring to the party. Our menu included ice cream, lots of fun toppings, fruit, a veggie tray, and crunchy snacks. Our only non-food purchases were a set of very popular color-change spoons and school-themed napkins. (We also bought these adorable ice cream plates, but I don’t think a single one was used.)

Most of the kinders have older siblings who pass our house on the walk home from their bus stop. We planned for the kinders and parents to arrive a bit before the bus dropped for some quieter time with just the younger kids, and then the older siblings and their friends joined a bit later for an ice cream bash for about 40 people. (Reader, you should know that when I bought extra ice cream because I was worried the three Bluebells tubs would not be enough for 40 people, I was very wrong. If you’d like to have ice cream tonight, please come to my house; we still have plenty!)

I hope our time together excited the kindergartners and maybe helped to quell some fears or uncertainties about their start at a new school. And, if I’m being my big, dreamy self, I hope it’s another moment the kids look back on when they remember the big team they had cheering them on as they moved through childhood. 

Isn’t that the best? If nothing else, I hope this post inspired you to make a little community magic right where you live :)

P.S. How we prepared for kindergarten the first time around – re-reading this myself!

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2024 mid-year goals review

19 July 2024

These mid-year goal reviews might be some of the most boring posts for y’all to read (hopefully not!), but — selfishly — they’re good accountability for me and a welcome opportunity to honestly reflect on what has and hasn’t been accomplished since the beginning of the year — and to regroup for the second half!

I set nine goals in my PowerSheets in January. Here’s how they’ve gone so far…

GOAL No. 1: Recover the armchairs

Progress I’ve made: Our cream armchairs were looking a bit worse for wear after five years. While I loved the idea of a lighter aesthetic, I decided reupholstering them in a darker tone and a performance velvet fabric would help us all feel more comfortable living in our main space while in our young kids era.

After carefully sifting through fabric samples and finding an upholsterer, the work was completed earlier this year. The change has done what I hoped it would — I’m far less uptight about how they get used — but I do wish the fabric had less of a sheen. While it’s hard to swallow a less-than-ideal result because of the cost involved, I’m reminding myself that the purpose of our home isn’t to look perfect: it’s to functionally shelter our family in a cozy and welcoming way, and this change definitely helps do that.

The next six months: All set here!

GOAL NO. 2: Read through The Bible Recap’s yearly reading plan

Progress I’ve made: John and I are following this chronological plan together, and we’re chugging along! We’re currently about three weeks behind, but I feel very nonchalant about it :) I am really enjoying listening to each day’s reading and the recap as I get ready for bed each night. So far, we’ve read through 18 books of the Bible, including many I’ve never spent much time in. I’m taking in far more scripture than in a typical year and absorbing more of it thanks to Tara’s commentary. Grateful!

The next six months: More of the same (+ the New Testament!)

GOAL NO. 3: Read through and apply Outlive

Progress I’ve made: We’re about halfway through the year and have made it about halfway through this (extremely large and dense) book! Key to our progress was realizing that it’s included with our Spotify Premium subscription; ever since, we’ve been listening together on our evening walks. This way, we move through it at the same pace, and can easily pause the book and discuss as needed.

For all that we’ve learned about the diseases of aging that kill most people (heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and type 2 diabetes), the first half of the book hasn’t been particularly actionable. The biggest change we’ve made is to consistently ruck 3-4 times a week. (And I’ve jotted down a few notes about testing we might want to have done in the future.)

The next six months: I do think the second half of the book will be much more action-oriented, and I am both excited and nervous about this, ha!

GOAL NO. 4: Launch The Connected Family’s audio course

Progress I’ve made: Progress has been slow and, if I’m being honest, not even particularly steady. While it’s true to say that the work of getting the TCF Substack up and running has edged out time to work on the course, that’s not the whole story. I am proud of the work I’ve accomplished on Substack (I’ve delivered a newsletter each week to a community that now tops 1,500 (!)), and it has taken more time that I expected, but fear has played a role, as well. I only want to add something to the world if it’s needed, helpful, and original, and I haven’t felt confident I can accomplish that.

The next six months: The best way I’ve found to fight the fear is to set a timer and work on the course for at least one hour each week. I’ve been inconsistent this summer, but plan to get back to it in the fall. My next step is to turn my outline over to John for his notes, and perhaps to a few other friends. Then, I just need to start writing. While I no longer think I’ll be able to launch the course this year, an early January launch might be possible. We shall see!

GOAL NO. 5: Log 1,000 hours of deep work

Progress I’ve made: In an effort to protect my attention span, I’ve been tracking my hours spent thinking, writing, brainstorming, or researching over the last few months. So far, I’ve logged 281 hours. While it’s easy to feel discouraged and compare where I am to where I “should” be (about 542 hours in at this point), I’m choosing to see each hour of undivided focus in the pursuit of meaningful work as a win. (I wrote more about this goal here!)

The next six months: More of the same! Hoping to hit at least 500 by the end of the year :)

GOAL NO. 6: Take the Birds & Bees course with John

Progress I’ve made: We took the course! We watched it together earlier this year. (It’s less than two hours.) As a parent, I’m glad we did it and it was helpful, though some of their better-known ideas were familiar to me from hearing Megan on podcasts and talking with friends who had already taken the course.

One of my favorite modules, though, was one I hadn’t heard anything about: lesson 7, Continuing the Conversation. In it, Mary Flo gives ideas for planning a time away with each child a year or so before they hit puberty. I loved what she had to say and am tucking the ideas away for our family’s future!

Finally, as a future course creator, the whole experience was eye-opening and gave me much to think about, especially around the simplicity of their curriculum.

The next six months: All set here, but I love that we have lifetime access to the course to brush up whenever needed!

GOAL NO. 7: Gut the loft

Progress I’ve made: While gutting has not happened, I did do a more rigorous than usual sweep of the space earlier this year – mostly clearing out toys that are no longer needed.

The next six months: I think my next step is to set up small shelves in the attic crawl space right off the loft. While I generally resist the idea that better organization is the solution to most home problems (in my experience, the solution is usually getting rid of stuff), I do think that being able to move some of my crafting and entertaining items out of the play area – and therefore making it more of a single-use room – will help it feel more orderly and useful.

GOAL NO. 8: Invite friends over for 12 Sunday night pizza hangs

Progress I’ve made: While I initially envisioned inviting different families over each month, this goal has unfolded in a different direction: we’ve landed on a back-and-forth tradition with just one other family (we go to their house one month, then they come to ours the next). This has been beautiful, and I wouldn’t change it, but we have traded breadth for depth.

The next six months: As we transition into fall, my hope is to continue this tradition and also invite another family over on the months we’re being hosted!

GOAL NO. 9: Explore the idea of renovating our home

Progress I’ve made: As longtime readers know, the vision for our future where I have felt the most unclear is whether we’ll stay in our home or move (locally). One outcome we’d never really considered was renovating our current home, but it popped onto our radar at the end of last year and quickly became something we were interested in exploring.

Earlier this year, we did explore it – we had a contractor we’d heard great things about out to our home, and spent a good amount of time with him discussing possibilities and measuring and walking our space. We liked him a lot. He followed up with estimates for the length of the project and the expense. The expense was actually less than we were expecting (though I’m sure we would be on the higher end of the range he offered, ha), but the length was longer – he estimated 5-7 months out of our home. John, particularly, felt that would be too disruptive for our family (on top of the considerable expense of renting for that time).

The next six months: In the midst of our renovation discussions, a home in our neighborhood came up for sale that we were very interested in. We hustled to confirm a realtor and get pre-approved for a mortgage, and while we ultimately decided not to put in an offer, it was a clarifying experience that helped us hone in on what we’re willing to move for. We’ll continue to keep an eye on listings in the two neighborhoods we’re interested in, and if the right place comes up, we’ll be ready — but will be totally fine (and perhaps would consider it ideal) if a move doesn’t happen for 1-3 years. Renovating plans are off the table for now.

Finally, here’s a little bonus update from last year, when I set a goal to work through trouble spots in our home, month by month. I just did an inventory, and of the 12 spots I worked through, I’d say we’ve been able to maintain the progress I made in nine of the spots. The other three are in need of a reboot a year or so out. Just thought that would be fun to share!

And there you have it! A very robust update on my 2024 goals. If you set your own goals for the year, or even if you didn’t, I’d love for you to share a win in the comments from the first six months! I can’t wait to cheer you on :)

July 2024 goals

9 July 2024

We’re back from a week in Michigan with our extended family (35 people in total!), and what a delight it was. Further thoughts coming in a recap post soon! Until then, here’s what we have on tap for July. I’m also prepping a midpoint-of-the-year goals post, so stay tuned for that next!

On my calendar:
— Celebrating Annie, John, and Shep’s birthdays! July is a celebratory month for our family!
— Sending June to sleepaway camp for two weeks! (Eep!)
— Hosting the second annual Cousin Camp for my niece and nephew!

What I’m loving right now:
This interview with married summer camp directors from the Raising Boys & Girls podcast was the encouragement I needed as we gear up to send our oldest to sleepaway camp for the first time. Both the practical tips and the big-picture reminders about why we’re doing this in the first place were welcome.
— The “Fresh Additions Fully Cooked Chicken Bites” from Costco have been a staple in John’s lunches since we discovered them a few months ago. The 2 oz packs come in a set of 8. I throw them in the freezer and he pulls them out one-by-one to add to his salads!
This essay! In addition to being a tender look into the heart of a mom of a grown-up daughter, allowing me to imagine the day I’ll be in those shoes, it also changed my approach to communication with my own mom right now. Grateful!

As a reminder, you can find allll the things I’ve loved over the last few years neatly organized right here!

What you’re loving right now:

This is where I highlight a few items here that have been popular in the last month with fellow readers, based on my analytics. Here’s hoping this will help you find something you’ll love!

Ocean BINGO, a game our 2-, 5-, and 8-year-old all love to play
— This slightly-dressed-up raspberry boatneck tank for hot days
— The brain dump journal from Cultivate, a delightfully flexible tool to organize all the things
— The Shibumi shade, an NC beach staple that’s SO easy to tote and set up
— The wooden card holder that makes games so much easier with little ones

Last month on The Connected Family:
Favorite board games to play with kids | There are two kinds of people in the world…
The boredom list | A screen-free list of 50+ activities kids can actually do on their own
On curating kids’ reading | Yes? No? How much, and in what way?
June’s favorite books, part 2 | 10 more series for kinder, first, second, or third graders

What I read in June:
How to Know a Person | While part of me wishes this book didn’t have to exist (shouldn’t we all just know how to engage with each other?!), I’m so glad it does. And actually, this book reminded me that while good “people skills” often seem effortless, they’re a learned skill — and one that we as a society used to spend more time teaching. I’m grateful for David Brooks stepping into the void, and have already added several of his insights to my relationship toolkit.
The Mystery Guest | Just as good as the first one!
Tom Lake | I really liked this book. (I thought it was even better than The Dutch House, which I also liked!) It was the perfect tagalong for our Michigan trip, since it’s set in the cherry fields of Traverse City, and the weaving of the two narratives was seamless. Plus, what a joy to read about a happy marriage! My only minor complaint is that I sometimes felt a bit off balance as a reader, like I was on the outside of an inside joke, asking myself whether I should already know something that didn’t feel clear. On the other hand, I think this masterfully brought to life the dynamic of a close-knit family, one that leans on years of accumulated memory and conversational shorthand. In that way, the author definitely succeeded :)

My reading list for 2024! I’m 9 / 24 so far.

Revisiting my June goals:
Complete at least 30 hours of deep work (Just 20 this month!)
Film June in June
Read chapters 12 and 13 of Outlive (12 completed)
Host our neighborhood’s kindergarten breakfast (Yes! It was the sweetest! Would a post about it be helpful?)
Host our church’s Father’s Day celebration
End the school year and begin summer well (Some of what we do here!)
Plan for Annie’s July birthday
Finish the 2015-2019 photo album (No movement here – on to July)
Buy a new laptop (Yes! Guys, it has a 20-hour charge!!)

July goals:
— Complete 40 hours of deep work
— Edit June in June
— Successfully send June to sleepaway camp
— Book our Acadia accommodations for next summer
— Write one module of the TCF course
— Read chapters 13 and 14 of Outlive
— Finish the 2015-2019 photo album

As a reminder, many of these are drawn from my 2024 goals!

Since it’s on my mind, let’s talk about sleepaway camp! Did you attend? For how long at a time, and how many years? Does it loom large in your psyche or is it just a small footnote? I’ll go first: while June and I are similar in so many ways, sleepaway camp seems to be a place where we diverge: she’s enthusiastic and mostly fearless, while I was notorious for signing up… then refusing to get on the bus to go. I did successfully complete two one-week stays in middle school, but that’s it!

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Family weekend trip to Bald Head Island

27 June 2024

Visiting the North Carolina coast on Father’s Day weekend has become one of our favorite family traditions. It helps that three years in, the weather has been pretty darn perfect each time (there must be something about that weekend in June!). Perfect weather or not, it’s a delight to discover new corners of this state we love in honor of our favorite dad.

This year’s trip was to Bald Head Island – come take a peek, if you’d like!

Longtime readers may remember that John and I have been to Bald Head Island just once before – almost 10 years ago, when I was pregnant with June! BHI is accessible only by ferry, and the only civilian vehicles on the island are golf carts, which makes it relatively inaccessible but delightfully relaxing. We left on Sunday afternoon after church and headed home around noon on Wednesday. It was the perfect amount of time to explore the island!

The first order of business when planning our trip was deciding where to stay. While there are lovely homes on the island, most rentals are for a week. Since we were staying just a few days, we opted for the Marsh Harbor Inn, which is an easy walk from the ferry. We stayed in one of the Shipwatch Suites. While the free-flowing popcorn in the dining room, the Fruit Loops every morning (a continental breakfast was included with our room), and the golf cart (also included with our room) were all highlights, the kids were UTTERLY ENTRANCED by their accommodations: three built-in bunk beds in the tiniest nook of a room. This was Annie’s first time sleeping outside of a crib or pack and play, and she was in heaven.

As for our itinerary, it was quite laidback. We arrived on the 4pm ferry and took the tram, which is included with your ferry ticket, to the Inn with our luggage. We got things sorted (and had a major squeal-fest over the bunk beds), then took the golf cart out to East Beach, on the far side of the island.

Almost everyone had gone home for the day, so we had the sand pretty much to ourselves to run and play.

We had dinner at Jailhouse Provisions (our first of several visits over our short stay!) then cruised home at sunset to watch the Olympic swimming trials. It’s funny how random things get associated with particular trips – the swimming trials will definitely be linked with this one!

Monday was a beach day – we headed back to East Beach and set up our Shibumi amongst 25+ others (!). While the waves and undertow were fairly serious, the shifting tide created the most perfect “ocean swimming pool.” It lasted all day and made going in the water much more accessible, especially for Annie (2). For lunch, we ate snacks from Maritime Market – cheese, salami, crackers, and pickled veggies.

We headed back to the harbor in the late afternoon, then cleaned up and walked over to the marina park where there was a kid-friendly DJ, hula hoops, and corn hole set out on the grass. Dinner was burgers, dogs, and pizza from Will O’ the Wisp. (I was not overly impressed with the pizza.) We walked over the dunes to West Beach to watch the sunset before turning in for more swimming trials. Here’s John in vacation mode at dinner :)

Every time we crossed over the marsh bridge in our golf cart Annie would shout “hey, Baldy!!” and Tuesday morning was her chance to go inside! Old Baldy is the lighthouse on Bald Head Island (the oldest in NC!), and we all bought tickets to climb the 108 stairs and peek out the top.

I’ve now proudly crossed three NC lighthouses off my bucket list – Currituck, Cape Lookout, and Old Baldy!

We also toured the small attached museum (including some Coast Guard history!) and spent a few minutes inside the beautiful Village Chapel right next door.

Then, in classic dad fashion, John led us on a few short hikes off North Bald Head Wynd (the main road). It was hot, but shaded, and we saw some impressive live oaks for our trouble. We also discovered the BHI Conservancy’s scavenger hunt, which June and Shep enjoyed completing over the next 24 hours.

After lunch at Jailhouse and stocking up on more snacks at Maritime Market, we set up camp at East Beach once again. More sandcastles, more wave hopping, more swimming in the giant tide pool, more beach reading.

Then back home for showers, dinner at Jailhouse (yes, twice in one day – we all agreed to choose a different meal than at lunch, ha!), and ice cream while cruising home in the golf cart.

Before we called it a night, we saw two beautiful things: one, a sunset over the tidal creek, with towering pink-tinged clouds. (All weekend, John and I debated whether our hypothetical BHI home would be on the creek, in the maritime forest, or on the beach; seeing this creek sunset clinched John’s choice.)

We also stopped by the wildlife overlook off Stede Bonnet Wynd and came upon an other-worldly scene: dozens (hundreds?) of snowy ibis and egrets roosting for the night in the trees ringing the pond. Everyone watching was hushed; it was just magical.

We took advantage of our last few hours with a golf cart on Wednesday morning by collecting the final scavenger hunt clues and turning in our sheets for small prizes. After our luggage was picked up by the tram, we walked around the harbor and watched the boat traffic coming and going before it was time to hop on the ferry ourselves and wave goodbye to another wonder of the North Carolina coast.

I’m feeling grateful, friends. These years with our kids (8, 5, and 2) are just incredibly sweet, and I’m savoring them. Thanks for letting me share!

P.S. Where should we go next?! Any NC coast recommendations you think we’d love? Please share!