Oh man you guys. I thought I was going to do the super-homeschool-mom thing and school the kids all summer long, and maybe I still am, but for now I’m getting the vibe that these guys are JUST SO DONE. And truthfully? So am I. I overheard the squad making LEGO villages in our den this morning and one of my son’s named one of his characters Cyril, so I’m taking that as my cue to pause the amazing literature and classical arts studies in favor of some unmitigated, no-holds-barred, play-at-your-own-risk summer fun. And to be fair, we just wrapped reading The Railway Children and this amazing little vintage book called “The Story of the World War: For Young People,” which was a chronicle of WWI written in 1918 by a school superintendent. I know. Heavy. What was I thinking? Not sure. But it was good and enlightening and now we’re admittedly ready to turn our brains off and chill for a bit.
So where do we go from here? If you’ve missed every other thing I’ve ever posted, I’ll bring you up to speed: I’m not a cruise director. I don’t do coordinated kids’ entertainment and schedules well. I just don’t. And we’re on a total TV ban for kids in this house, so all their activities are genuinely up to them. I’m going to break this post down into what I’m doing to set up a great summer for my squad, a few boundaries I’m putting in place to protect my sanity, and a run down of some of the things I’m doing to celebrate this summer for moi, since, like most moms, I genuinely never get to do things like watch TV or read books for no reason other than entertainment. (And I’ll reiterate what I shared on social media this morning…the pool doesn’t make our list this year. We live in Michigan where it’s still pretty cool every day, and 2 boys age 5 and under and a 6 month old baby are enough to give me a heart attack at the pool.. as if putting this post-5 kids body into a bathing suit weren’t already enough to send me to the hospital.)
Okay are you ready? For starters, a few rules I’m establishing to keep this house under *some* level of control:
- Beds get made every day. Seriously this is the fastest way to make it look like you have your you-know-what together without really doing much. Kids deserve to learn that little life hack. They’ll thank me later.
- Dishes ALWAYS get washed. Right now we have no dishwasher, and I CAN’T EVEN with the stress of piled up dishes that have to be hand washed at the end of the day. Rule is, you use it, you wash it, dry it, and put it away. PERIOD.
I could stop there- I mean, if beds are made and dishes are put away, do you even notice any other messes in the house??? This feels good to me. But here are a few more because I think it builds character:
- If you have dirt under your nails, you better believe you’re getting a bath. Y’all I am not about to spend this summer fighting with sweaty, dirty, stinky boys about baths. We’re not watching TV and we’re not swimming, so basically I have given them a free pass to get filthy every day. I’m just setting that expectation UP FRONT that baths will happen so nobody can act all surprised when mom puts them in the communal dunk tank upstairs after their shenanigans. I’m rebuking that funky summer boy stench right now, and declaring it has no place in my house, okay? Sweat in the streets, clean in the sheets, you guys. Say it with me.
- I am available for lunch, dinner, and bedtime stories. All other requests require an appointment. I’m putting myself on a sabbatical, you guys. Thankfully turning off the TV has been like a turbo-charger for my kids’ imaginations, but I can remember a time when they came to me every 2.5 seconds requesting some form of entertainment or assistance from me, and that time is not about to come back. I am claiming it here and now.
I’m cool with stopping there. I feel like those set some pretty good boundaries for us. Now here are some of the things I’m doing to set them up for success so we can stick to those:
- Beds are set up for easy bed-making. My squad has a flat sheet and a quilt on each of their beds, with their standard pillow and a sham pillow, and that’s it. I find it’s way easier for them to make them if they don’t have a zillion accent pieces, no matter how cute those are. Stuffed animals they sleep with go in a basket in their room. Super easy cleanup and no excuse for them to drag this chore out either.
- Step stool and dish kit are in place at the sink. I have a simple little reusable rubbermaid square box that holds my sponge and a small bottle of dish soap, with a dish towel hanging right next to the sink for them to use. Their plates are heavy duty china and their glasses are mason jars, so not terribly likely to break, and they know to put these in a low cabinet when they’re finished.
- Snacks are prepped and easily accessible. I have a fridge full of strawberries and other berries and grapes, some individually wrapped hummus and guacamole, and pita chips and tortilla chips in large, clear snapware containers that the kids can reach. I also keep a bowl of apples and bananas and mandarin oranges on the table for them to munch on.
- Hydration is a big deal. I’m from the South, where heat stroke is a real and scary thing. It’s still 65* and beautiful out here, but I’m not playing games with the squad anyway. I’m sure the day will come when it’s 90* and humid as all get-out, and I’ll be patting myself on the back for getting them in the habit of drinking water all day. So glasses are the only dish that can stay out on the table, and those can be perpetually refilled. Basically I want to see them drinking water every hour, and for the most part they do this pretty well on their own. If they’re outside playing, I just give them a reminder on the hour to take a water break if they aren’t self-policing.
Have I scared you with how Type A I am yet? Okay good, because I have another set of prep that keeps the playtime from taking over my whole house:
- Art supplies get a time and place: I know I said I’m not a cruise director, but this one requires some policing from me. We struggle with boundaries around craft supplies in this house. I don’t know what it is, but somehow the temptation to use scissors to cut printer paper into teensy weensy shreds and leave them absolutely everywhere is just too much for my crew to resist. So art supplies stay high up in a cabinet until the kids ask for them, and then they can do their projects at the dining table until they’re finished. My only rule here is that they have to be done and cleaned up before meals, and the supplies always have to go back to their place.
- Same goes for LEGOS. Y’all. I cannot even begin to explain the love-hate relationship I have with legos. I just can’t. My squad all have their own snap-on lid Hefty boxes from Target to hold their legos, and the rule is that those have to be cleaned up before we wash up for meals. They can do as much as they want for as long as they want, but everything is put away before meal time. And if any are left out, they get one warning before the vacuum gets them. It only took us one tough lesson to master that expectation.
- Neighborhood friends are ALWAYS allowed. The only expectation is that 1) I have to have met their parents and have those parents’ cell phone numbers, and 2) you can go to that friend’s house, but if they’re not home, you come home. No going around knocking door to door until you find someone who’s home. If you want to try other friends, you have to come home and tell me the next stop first. Ooh. And everyone goes home by 4:30 so we can get cleaned up and ready for dinner.
What do you think? Too much? Too crazy? Maybe so. But I like to think of myself as a Type A mom who needs lots of framework for structure without actually needing to control all the details. (You can see how I managed a team in my corporate days, no?) We’ll do things like go to the library and some local attractions and meet up with friends, but for the most part, our summer is going to be pretty loosy-goosy, which works out really well when you have a 6-month old who still naps twice a day. And the boundaries always help my sanity, especially when these little people try to act surprised when I ask them to do something like not leave legos for their mother to destroy her foot on. No one in this house can say I didn’t warn them about squat.
So what am I going to be doing now that these kids are entertaining themselves and I’m not teaching them and reading to them from sunup to sundown? Well, I’m glad you asked. Some of my ideas:
- Enjoy my remodel, for starters. We are three short weeks away from wrapping this puppy up, and I’m going to be showering EVERY day in my new double steam shower. (I am CLAIMING this you guys. New moms out there who don’t know where their next shower is coming from, I see you. I’m doing this in your name.) I’m also planning on rolling out enough bread dough on my new island to make up for the three months I’ve lived without an oven. My baking game is about to be ON POINT. Or maybe it will have to be completely relearned. Not sure. Either way that oven is going to be on and popping. Believe that.
- Read for pure entertainment. I have this dream of starting a book club that revisits the required reading of my high school days. But not this summer. No, this summer I’m talking about reading Bossypants and Yes, Please, and whatever the latest Mindy Kaling book is, I’m not sure. Or better yet, listening to those on audiobook while I do things like laundry and vacuuming. Bc I’m not trying to eliminate my OCD. I’m not superwoman.
- Catch up on pop culture. This may take more than one summer to do. (I mean, I still haven’t seen 24 or Scandal so…) But I’m currently taking suggestions on the best use of my time when it comes to binge watching must-see shows. As a point of reference, I’m considering rewatching Parks and Recreation and The Office, while I’ve watched 3 episodes of Mad Men and haven’t decided yet if I’m committed enough to keep that thing going. More to come on this front. Seriously, give me ideas people. I don’t know what I don’t know.
- Enjoy a little solitude every day. My absolute fave morning routine is taking 30 minutes every morning to do yoga in my bedroom and read my Bible before facing the day. But the summer mornings here are hard to beat, so I’m hoping to move yoga to bedtime in favor of starting each morning with coffee and Bible time on my super peaceful back porch.
There you have it, friends. Pretty simple, no? I’m sure we’ll find ways to do some small trips here and there (we do a custody swap for my big girls and that will have to be worked in there too), but for the most part, we’ll be at home, chilling and trying to keep our sanity. If things are too crazy without a tighter routine, I’ll probably opt to just go back to a lighter version of our school days, making time each day for reading a fun novel together (Paddington is our usual summer go-to, but we loved Tom Sawyer, so Huck Finn may be an option) and doing some nature discoveries. I know there are tons of free events in our area that cater to families with young children, and maybe I’ll feel like braving it with my crew. But right now the idea of trekking anywhere with the boys and a baby is just…meh.
What about you? Action packed summer or keeping it real at home? I’d love to hear from you guys…I’m never above stealing good ideas from people who know how to have fun.
Happy summer, friends!