Ah, summer vacation… By the time we get to May each year, summer vacation can’t come soon enough for us. Right about that time, I start to daydream about open-ended days where we don’t have to “answer to the man”; where we wake with the sun and not our alarm clocks, and the rest of our day is the perfect mix of relaxation and exciting family adventures. Sound picturesque? Well, I do have a top-notch imagination…
So, needless to say, that is not exactly what happens… While I do have the luxury of being at home with the kids and my sole job is managing our lives and the household, I do not seem to be able to perfectly recreate that unblemished world of my imagination day in and day out for three months. That said, I do try and here are a few things that bring me closer to my unattainable goal:
- Summer Planning Work Session… This is something that we did at the beginning of the summer on a whim, and I feel like it helped us start off in the right direction. First we ordered take out for dinner to make it an “event”. Then we broke out our Wellness Wheels** to help us gauge our satisfaction with our own lives, and from there we talked about our personal goals for the summer. We also talked about how we could help each other meet these goals. Finally we took the opportunity that evening to brainstorm ideas for our summer family bucket list. By the end of the evening it felt like we were ready to dive in to summer vacation!
- Family Bucket List… I’ve talked about our family bucket list on an earlier post, and it continues to be a driving force behind our accomplishments as a family. During summer break, I rely heavily on the family bucket list to guide me in scheduling in fun and adventures. Some of the bucket list items are easy and relaxing, like our quest to watch all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies or what we call “porch-sicles” where we just enjoy popsicles on the front porch together after dinner. Others are adventures designed to force us out of our home-body comfort zones and to create stories to tell when we head back to school in the fall. These adventures include various camping trips, paddle boarding on the bay during vacation, or helping with my husband’s adventure race. Checking off various types of activities throughout the summer means that when we reach the end of vacation it will feel balanced and well-spent.
- Organized Sports, Activities, and Jobs… Despite the fact that not “answering to the man” is what I look forward to the most about summer, I have found that having something organized and with outside expectation is important in giving my kids a sense of structure over the summer months. The activity is generally something that also can be missed for travel or an adventure just too exciting to skip, but otherwise we make a full-hearted effort to go. With four kids, it can at times feel like a bit too much, but most weeks it is effective to have things scheduled. This summer the boys each have a sport going, swim team, soccer conditioning, and ultimate frisbee, and Molly has a few part-time jobs that give her some structure, too.
- Personal Bucket List… In addition to our family bucket list, I have started my own weekly personal bucket list. It shows the things that I would like to accomplish each week that are my own, separate from the family. On it you find things like:
- run/walk (3)
- pilates (2)
- garden (3)
- clean baths
- sewing project
- home improvement project
It is the same list every week, and while not nearly as fun as our family bucket list, it prevents me from ending the week feeling like I didn’t take care of myself.
- Morning List/Check-in… While I like the kids to take advantage of summer mornings to catch up on rest and relaxation, too much of that good thing does not make for a good summer. To prevent day after day of sloth-like behavior, we have a list of morning activities posted to the refrigerator. It is a list of pretty obvious morning activities… breakfast, teeth brushing, instrument practicing, for example… but on summer break it’s nice to not have to think too hard… and the kids know not to ask to do something extra, like, say, play Xbox or head off to a friends house, if the list isn’t fulfilled, thus eliminating some stress for me, too!
- Family Meeting… We keep up with our family meetings most Sundays in the summer, too. They allow us to stay connected and well as to look at the week ahead and have some control over how much we have scheduled and how much time we have for vegging. This weekly fine-tuning is helpful in finding the ever-elusive balance.
- Flexibility and Forgiveness… And finally… and this is probably more of a reminder for me than anybody else… I try to remember that while life is what we make it, it is also often out of our control. It is important that I listen (both literally and figuratively) to my family and myself. A big adventure may not be just what we need that day. Or vegging around the house for the day might encourage edginess and bickering instead of rejuvenation. That said, if I get it wrong… well, that’s where the forgiveness comes in!
So that’s what our summer looks like around here. How about you? Do you have any special approaches to get the most out of your summer? How do you make sure you and yours will be ready to head into the school year satisfied, but rested and raring to go?!
**Wellness Wheels are something I was introduced to in college while working for JMU’s Center for Community Service-Learning. Briefly, it is a tool for gauging satisfaction in various parts of one’s life. A circle is divided with six points: Social, Physical, Intellectual, Spiritual, Emotional, Occupational, with a spoke coming from the center to each of points. The spoke is then used like a sliding scale of how satisfied or dissatisfied you are with each category. When you connect the dots on your sliding scale you have a visual of how balanced your life is… a balanced life produces a wheel that could roll. 🙂