They sit perched on the corner of my bed. I have yet to scrape away the eye boogies stuck in the corner of my lids. I haven’t had my morning coffee.
“What are we going to do today?” Can we have (insert friends name) over? Can we have a BBQ and invite everyone in the entire world over?”
During the school year, our days tend to run in an order of books, lessons, and activities . As the days in the fall and winter shorten and daylight becomes scarce, we give way to a predictable routine. Weekends are the only option for sleepovers, late nights or gatherings. And as an introvert, that suits me fine. It’s a time to burrow into my comfy home, to sip from steamy mugs and put the kids to bed in rooms long ago dark from the early slipping sun.
But it’s summer.
The days stretch long and lazy. The sun remains high in the sky flirting with the flowers, and green grass sprouting high and glorious. And we’re free. The lessons and yellow number two’s are put away, in their place, books read while sitting by the lake, swaying in the hammock or sprawled on a blanket spread wide over emerald grass.
And there is time for community. To BBQ, to gather in the wide open spaces filled with sunshine. To gather the children and their friends, to toss water balloons, to fill the pool, and slather on the sunscreen, to embrace fingers sticky with watermelon and popsicles.
And to invite families to community. Summer is desperately short in Central Oregon and we have to make the most of each sunny day.
And as an introvert, this season can exhaust me. I can long for the routine when the spontaneity seems to overwhelm my days and I feel like I am struggling to keep pace with it all.
So this is how I not only survive summer, but thrive in it.
1.) I take a few hours a week to sit and write, blocking out thoughts and conversation and busyness. Every Wednesday, my mother watches my children as I search for a quiet coffee shop or a nook in the far corner of the library. I abandon myself to the words bustling inside me. This time is essential not only for consistency on this blog but also for my sanity. I must have time alone to recharge or summers are overwhelming because of the constant interaction with people. With enough solitude, I enjoy company. You may not write but taking that exercise class, going for a walk in the morning, or an evening out sipping coffee can do wonders for your mental state, whether you are an introvert or not.
2.) I do not sign my kids up for summer activities. I do not do art lessons, music, sports, or any other thing that requires consistent pickup up, dropping off or shuttling around. In years past, I had signed my kids up for activities in the hope that they would vent some of their energy and I would have a mini break but the truth is activities often require more from mama than from the kids.
3.) I am not a cruise director or a concierge. We have days when we plan activities and fun but I am not here to combat boredom. That is what imagination is for and I strongly believe that when children aren’t rescued from boredom, that confrontation inspires the growth and imagination. I have art supplies, outside toys, and lots of games and books at their fingertips. If the boredom is extreme and whining takes place, I always have a list of chores that could be done to fill the time. They tend to think of something to do right away when I mention the chore list.
4.) I stock my fridge and freezer with quick and easy go to meals so I can whip something together quickly. I have fresh fruit and home-made popsicles at the ready for friends coming over. Simplicity here is essential. During the fall, freezer cooking works great for our family but in the summer, I try to radically reduce our meal options to a consistent pattern. Wednesdays , I go to the farmers market so we always have zucchini soup. I pick up a loaf of artisan bread from one of the local bakeries and we have a quick and easy meal. Friday is homemade pizza night and the kids get to make them adding toppings etc. Weekends we BBQ. We also do lots of quick and easy meals that use our garden’s veggies, fajitas, burritos, spaghetti etc.
5.) I say no. I realize that even if something sounds fun, sometimes I have to say no for my sanity. It is better that they have a mom who is not completely overwhelmed, exhausted, and frustrated than one who says yes to every outing or gathering. I limit what I can do because I know that to recharge, I need downtime. And even though they’re not introverts, they need rest too.
6.) I make it easy for those times when I say “yes.” I have a summer bag at the ready. Stocked with sunscreen, bottled water, insect repellent,and first aid kit. I keep a corner of the laundry room for all swimsuits, towels, goggles etc. so we’re not searching the house for these things every time we want to play in the water or go to the pool or lake. I keep picnic blankets, extra diapers and wipes, and plastic silverware in the car. Then if we’re out and we decide to have an impromptu picnic, I can grab a few things from the market and we’re set.
7.) I make them read. There are great summer reading programs available at the local library and our Barnes and Noble that offer great prizes for reading books. We do library trips often and reading time during the week is essential. The kids love getting prizes and competing to see who can get the most books read.
8.) Put them on the calendar. Plan a mix of small and large activities throughout the summer. I do not want to entertain them day-to-day, hour to hour, but I do want to pack in camping trips, lake days, nights by our fire pit, floating the river and all the other summer things that Central Oregon weather doesn’t allow the rest of the year. Putting things in writing helps me to see the big picture and know if we should do less during the week because we’re going to the lake all weekend.
How do you plan your summers? Do you find the season more restful or more stressful than the normal school year? Do you have any tips to make your summer’s go smoother or any traditions or activities that you always do? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.