We are already six weeks into our summer. I'm still celebrating the fact that none of my kids got lice during the school year. Major accomplishment. Continuing to revel in this good fortune, I've hardly had time to over-think summer. We are just here. Now. Enjoying ourselves. I did learn from trial and error how best to approach summer and what's working this year includes a few rules, a loose schedule, and a summer state-of-mind.
1) Schedule Sanity. While my fitness activities have changed since starting my "exercise detox," I still have certain kid-free workouts scheduled--two early morning walks, one Pilates class and one yoga class. That way, I know those four workouts will happen no matter what kind of crazy takes off.
2) Be Active Outdoors. At home the kids are outdoors where they climb trees, swing on the monkey bars, run through the sprinklers, make mud pies, catch frogs, and so on. We ride bikes (just discovered a new trail that gets us to a nearby lake beach), swim, play basketball, baseball, hit tennis balls. There is no lack for outdoor play. Why would you want to be anywhere else in the summer? Still, there are times I have to encourage the kids to get their butts out the door. "Why?" my daughter asked me yesterday. "Because it will be winter soon!" I answered.
3) Windows for Screen Time. Since the arrival of the family iPad and my kids ever-growing interest in computer games, I'm finding that I have to monitor screen time more. Rather than track who watches what when, I've streamlined the rule to this: No electronics after 10 a.m. or before 6 p.m. That gives me a more manageable time-frame to police the technology use.
4) Playdates. Last year it felt as if the entire summer rolled by before my kids had checked in with any of their friends. This year I've allowed them to each invite one friend over once a week (I have veto power if I can't fathom a doubling of children in the home). This is a cheap date.
5) Freebies. Speaking of cheap date, I've found as many free community activities to attend as we can. We're lucky, because there are many. Events at our library (they saw a cool magic show last week), free weekly movies at our community center, and nearby parks and swimming holes.
6) Shared Housework. My home is never spotless, but when the kids are in school, at least it's not in constant turmoil and I am not forever asking my kids to pick up after themselves. My choice is either to continue to ask them to put away their shoes and pick up their clothes or do it myself. I don't want to do it. Eventually I want to arrive at that day when I walk into my children's rooms to find nary a pair of underpants on the floor, even if it happens when they are adults in their own home. In addition to the picking up, the kids also roll up their sleeves to do bigger chores, like clean bathrooms, vacuum, dust. As they should with all the fun stuff we do over the summer.
7) Weekly Field Trips. Since my kids don't do summer daycare or camps one thing they miss out on are those fun field trips. Last summer I tried to schedule a certain place on a certain day each week. That became cumbersome as I learned that the summer schedule should be more pliable than the 12-week written plan I had originally set out to follow. So this summer we wrote a list of places we wanted to go or return and we try to hit at least one a week.
8) Garden Fresh Eating. I'm a fan of Community Supported Agriculture and we've had a share in a CSA almost every year we've lived in Minnesota. I've also tried to grow my own veggies when I muster the gumption to raise something else in addition to my four children. Here's what I know to be true: Most kids avoid vegetables when possible. However, when kids pick vegetables from the ground themselves they will eat them. I've seen it with my own eyes. As one daughter and I were poking around our backyard garden she said to me: "When I grow up I'm going to have a vegetable garden too." I swooned.
9) Read Daily. My kids are good readers anyway, fortunately, but I still support it and encourage it with frequent library trips. My kids have stopped telling me "I'm bored" because they know that I will only tell them to get out their math workbooks or go read. So they do. On their own. (Or go play outside). Everyone reads at bedtime in our house. It's just a family habit we started in infancy and continues today. Even though my girls can read on their own, I still enjoy reading to them. We are on the fifth Harry Potter book. Once we are done with the series I believe I will be just as proud of having read all seven Harry Potter books out loud as I will of having finished an Ironman triathlon.
10) Notice the Little Things. Taking those moments to gaze up at the leaves under a tree, watch a passing hummingbird, enjoy a glass of wine at a neighbor's house; to stop and gawk at a commanding sunset, wash the car, write thoughts in a journal, eat a popsicle -- things that often get overlooked when "too busy" -- are the real hallmarks of an enjoyable summer.
Play hard. Don't think about buying school supplies yet or lice prevention. Just enjoy your summer.
Copyright © 2008 - 2014 Kara Douglass Thom. All rights are reserved.