This Summer’s “Light” Plan

A summer without a plan is my worst nightmare! And yet, an over-planned summer is just as bad. Here’s how I’m planning (hopefully!) to find that blessed middle ground for a light summer!

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It’s almost here! My favorite season of the year, when I finally get warm! I love the long days full of light. I love the warm days full of shorts and tees. I love the opportunities for adventure! And if you know me by now… I love the summer plan!

Yep, I’ve got a plan. Because that’s how I roll. If I didn’t plan anything out for the 10 weeks that my little boys will be home all day long I’d be certifiably insane by 9:30 am on day 1. Not good.

However, I’ve also been known to over plan. And when I fill our days to the brim and we rush from one thing to the next and I’m stressed out about fitting it all in and having fun, by golly… that has not worked very well either.

But, because this motherhood thing (and my life as a whole, quite frankly) is all a work in progress and a trial and error kind of thing, I’ve worked out a few kinks in the 23 years I’ve been a mom now. (Has it really been that long? Yikes!)

And while every summer is unique, and every child is unique (even year by year!) my summer plans will continue to evolve as long as I have summers.

In fact, when my big kids were little and I was working outside the home, the kids were in day camps from 9am – 3pm every day. We’d find ourselves by the apartment’s pool from 3-5pm and squeeze in cheap trips on long weekends.

But this summer with the little boys, I’m home all… day… long. That’s why this is what I’ve come up with for this particular summer.

Have you ever heard of the analogy of the rocks and the jar? You know where you have big rocks and medium rocks and small rocks and you’re supposed to fit them all in a jar? And they’ll all fit, if you do them in a certain order? Well, for whatever reason, that image popped into my head this morning as I was planning this post. And it applies to what I’m trying to do with our time. I’ll explain…

In this analogy, you need to put the big rocks in first, then the medium rocks, and finally, all the little tiny rocks will fill in the spaces that are left, and voila! everything has fit in the jar.

So, if the jar is our summer, I’ve got to put our rocks in, in the right order!

Big Rocks

Our big rocks are the big trips that our family wants to take this summer. We actually planned these way back in October of last year when my husband and I did a planning session for this year. We made an adjustment to one of our trips, but the general plan has been the same.

I have a gypsy heart. And in the summer, it wants to travel! So we decided that one week of each of the three summer months, we’re going to go somewhere! We’ve been saving up vacation time and money to cover our explorations.

One week we’re going to visit family. Because they live far away. And we only see them twice a year. But while we’re hanging out with all those wonderful aunts and uncles and cousins, we’re also going to go swimming and hiking and picnicking.

One week we’re going to go camping. Because we love it! We’ll be tent camping on the shores of one of my very favorite mountain lakes. And I can’t wait for the kayaking, the swimming, and the campfires!

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One week we’re going to explore a new city! My husband needs to attend conferences to stay current in his career and naturally I love to come along! We looked at the list of conferences for this year and picked one in a city we haven’t visited before. Well, not together. And the last time I was there, I was 14 years old! I’m already gathering a list of places to see, food to eat, and things to do!

So, our three big trips are the big rocks that will fill up three of the 10 weeks of our summer vacation. Now, what about the other seven weeks?

Medium Rocks

I love to live like a tourist. Granted, it’s pretty easy to do that here where we live, but I’m pretty sure I’d be like this anywhere we happened to be.

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Every summer, I make a list of “day adventures” that I would like my boys and I to take. As I mentioned before, staying at home day after day makes me incredibly antsy. And grouchy. So I’ve got a list of places to choose from and I’ll schedule those into our weeks depending on the weather and our interest.

Here are a few of the places we like to go on our adventures:

  • Parks – We go to a different one each week and it keeps us all from getting bored of the same playground structure. Bonus points if we bring friends!
  • Beaches/Pools – I feel incredibly lucky that we live only 45 minutes from the ocean. And there are so many different beaches that we can go to. But if you don’t live that close (or you’re like me sometimes and don’t feel like all that sand!) there are pools to go play in as well.
  • Hikes – It might be in the hills or it might be down a main street, but there’s always an interesting place to go for a walk. If your kids aren’t enthusiastic about the idea yet, snacks and games along the way are great motivators!
  • Museums – History, science, children’s… there are all kinds of museums out there. Do you know which ones are near your town? And if you’re being frugal, check to see if they have any coupons, or free days, or find out if you can get a pass from your local library.
  • Transportation – Got a train near you? Boats? Buses? My boys have a blast when we ride something other than our trusty minivan. It’s fun to try a new mode of transportation to a fun destination, even just a new ice cream shop, and then ride back again.
  • Sports – Got a team you’d like to go see? Do you know if your city has a local team? It’s fun to watch everything from soccer, to baseball, to volleyball, to basketball… even just the community center teams! And if you’d rather play, create a pick-up game with the neighborhood kids. There’s also bowling, mini-golf, frisbee, and trampoline centers!

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A little internet sleuthing, library searching, or just asking the neighbors, can come up with a list of fun, local adventures to have in the summer. I’ll sprinkle these in throughout the week when we’re getting cabin fever and want to get out and play!

Little Rocks

And now we find ourselves with the little rocks of summer. These are the little things that either need to happen, or I’d like to have happen, during these big open days between spring and fall.

They are the things that I want to do every day, so that the cumulative effect builds up over the course of the 10 weeks. Here are the things I’ve got planned:

  • Home care – As I’ve mentioned before, I put a load of laundry in every morning and I have certain chores assigned to each day. That’s the only way I’ve figured out how to stay on top of the never-ending job of keeping our home in order. The boys have started to help with some of the home care, and I want to increase that this summer. We’ll get it done first thing in the morning, so it’s done before we play!
  • Reading – Last summer I figured the boys were old enough for me to start reading short chapter books to them. We started with The Magic Tree House series and we had so much fun reading, we didn’t stop at the end of last summer! We’re still reading them every day. And we’re going to continue that this summer. We also go to the library on Tuesday mornings and check out a big stack of books for the week. The last thing we’re going to do this summer is start, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. The boys are definitely ready to read, so we’ll see how that goes!
  • Writing – Last summer, after one of our “adventures” I had the boys draw a picture of what we did and had them write one word at the top that related to where we went. It was extra fun, because at the end of the summer, the boys had a little “scrapbook” of the places we went. This year we’re going to do that again, but I’ll have them write a sentence about where we went. We’ll also fit fun writing in by making cards, signs, or whatever else comes up. Just getting them into the habit of writing those ABCs.
  • Math – Games, games, games! My boys are currently obsessed with doing simple calculations in their head. For this non-math-loving mama, it’s baffling! But I know well enough to encourage it! So we’ll take a few minutes each day and play a “game” that uses basic math. Dice are great for this. As are UNO cards. So are any objects that can be used as math manipulatives. And don’t forget about cooking! Lots of ways to play with numbers.
  • Physical Activity – Not that my boys need much help in getting physical activity. Ha! They pretty much run through the house from the moment they wake up, till the moment they go to bed! However, there are a few skills I want to include for them to learn/work on this summer. I’ve signed them up for six weeks of gymnastics class on Wednesday afternoons, five weeks of an intro-to-sports class on Thursday afternoons, and one week of swimming lessons. These are all through our local community center and reasonably priced. Bonus points for the fact that I get a small break when they’re in class!

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By being very deliberate in what I’ve planned out for this summer, I’m hoping it’s going to ROCK! (Do you see what I did there?! Haha!)

I’ve got enough planned to keep us (me) from getting bored. But plenty of wiggle room for shifting things around as I get the notion or as I’m forced to by outside influences.

Plus, there is something wonderful about afternoons in the backyard with no agenda. Just some water, some dirt, and some sunshine. I definitely want there to be some open time for the boys to get creative and use as they’d like. And me too! While they’re making mud statues for their sandbox store, I’ll be sitting in the hammock with my latest book.

And that’s this summer’s plan! Hopefully it will be one to make our summer “light”!

What do you have planned for the summer?

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Mother’s Day: Rest and Play

I realized this year that all I really want for Mother’s Day are two things. And neither one comes from a store. 

Just a day doing the hardest job in the world…

Mother’s Day sort of seems like a two-edged sword for me. On one hand, it’s absolutely wonderful to celebrate the women in our lives who are doing the hardest job on the planet. There absolutely should be a day to celebrate that!  Continue reading “Mother’s Day: Rest and Play”

The Light (and Dark) of Smartphones

As I’ve noticed what makes me lighter in my life, I’ve been drawn to notice both the light and the dark that has come from this little device that fits in the palm of my hand.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about my smartphone. I’ll admit, it took me a while to get on the bandwagon and actually get one (back in the day… which was… ten years ago??) I couldn’t see why I needed a phone to do anything more than, you know, just talk. I was barely starting to text. The old kind of text where you had to push the number keys to get to the right letter. And for me, a person who doesn’t always like talking on the phone, I could see how texting was a bonus. Continue reading “The Light (and Dark) of Smartphones”

Better Together

This is a post I originally wrote almost 10 years ago (wow!) back when I was a single mom of two kids. But its message has been coming back to me recently, and I thought I’d repost it here with an update at the end. Enjoy!

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There’s a song by Jack Johnson that says, “It’s always better when we’re together.” I know Jack was referring to the love of his life, but lately I’ve thought of this in terms of my sisterhood of women. Continue reading “Better Together”

Be Here

One of the best ways I’ve found to “lighten up” is to be present. But how to actually do that? I’ve found a trick that brings me into the “now” every time.

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It was quite an eyeopener when I realized how many times a day my thoughts were either revisiting the past or imagining the future. Not a bad thing in small doses, but re-hashing a past I cannot change, or worrying over every possible future option is not a healthy place for a mind to be.  Continue reading “Be Here”

Lighten Up for Spring – It’s Time Again!

I can feel it. It’s like an itch I’m going to have to scratch. It’s that time of the year. When I grab my boxes and do a total house de-clutter!

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Of course, my boys and I managed to catch some early spring virus that has had us (well, me) mostly just lying around listening to the spring rain and watching the first blossoms pop out in our back yard. I love spring. I love the renewal of life. And once I kick this virus, I’m going to feel a little of that spring renewal myself! Continue reading “Lighten Up for Spring – It’s Time Again!”

Birthdays

I love celebrating my birthday. I know some people can let it slide by without fanfare, but I really like doing something special to note another orbit around the sun.

I remember the birthday I had during my first year of college. A few days before, I realized that it would be my first birthday away from the typical celebration of my family and that it was all up to me to make my birthday what I wanted it to be. Continue reading “Birthdays”

Lighter Love Notes

While there is definitely something incredibly romantic about having a stack of cards and letters from your loved one all tied up in a ribbon… I wondered if there was a lighter way to keep these love notes.

Last year, as I stood in the greeting card isle of the store, amazed at how much the cost of cards was going up, I had an idea.

Continue reading “Lighter Love Notes”

Play!

In my quest to make my life “lighter” I’ve begun to identify what kinds of things make me feel “light”. A book I’ve been wanting to read for a while, and I finally got to read, has helped me see that those things that I’m doing that feel “light” is actually the way that I “play.”

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I’ve had Dr. Stuart Brown’s book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul on my list of books to read for a while. I finally got a copy from the library and dove in last month. After all, it seemed like a good idea to read a book on why play is important! Continue reading “Play!”