Surviving Summer (in a nutshell)

I have a love-hate relationship with summer.  I will explain.

I love the sunshine and the absence of snow.  I love the parks and the leisurely pace and the fun summer family programs.  I love the freedom to schedule outings and day trips and vacations completely uninhibited by school calendars.  I love building a schedule made up of all the priorities I don’t seem to have room for during the school year.  I love my children having time to play outside and play with each other. I love the longer days, and I love that the kids get more playtime with dad. And I love watermelon, strawberries, and popsicles.

Now for the parts that are harder to celebrate. . . .  longer days mean later bedtime, and, frankly, after I’ve spent an entire day with all three children by myself, I’d kind of go for a 6 p.m. bedtime.  Vacations are fun, but they are hard work.  As in, if you’re a mom, the only things that really do “vacate” are your brain and your energy.  Plus, has anyone else noticed that children are just really naughty for several days after a vacation?  It’s exasperating.  I find it difficult to coordinate babysitting or go to appointments or make some time for myself when all my children are at home all day.  The gym, for example.  (Have I mentioned before that I loathe gym day-care?  I have issues.)  And since I never have any quiet time during the day, I stay up too late at night wasting my brain on mindless stuff just because I’m relishing my alone time. Oh, and let’s not forget that when siblings get to spend oodles of time together, they fight like cats and dogs.

Sigh. Sorry my cons paragraph seemed quite a bit longer than the pros.  I tend to get a little dramatic when I complain.  Anyway, in light of this summer paradox, I have a few questions:

  1.  Do you think that maybe there’s a really fine line between children being naughty and children just being annoying?  I think I lump it all into the naughty category and get more fed up than I need to be.
  2. One thing that saves my sanity is scheduled and enforced reading time.  My boys are 6 and 8 and both read really well.  I’ve found that a lot of books that are at their reading level have kind of inappropriate content.  They’re not quite ready for pre-teen literature.  Do you have any suggestions for some good chapter books or series for boys?
  3. Any post-vacation tips?  Because, seriously, we have a few more coming up and I don’t know if I can handle the sassy, lazy aftermath.
  4. We have a lot of great kids in our neighborhood, but I don’t know much about the rules of play date “etiquette.”  If a child invites another child to play, is it presumptuous to want to play at the home of the invited?  I always think it’s kind of odd when a kid shows up and says, “Can so-and-so play?” and you say yes, and then the kid just comes on in.  Oh, you meant here?  On the other hand, I know my own children would like to go play at their friends’ houses, too (One word: Wii.), but I never want them to invite themselves over.  Am I being weird about this? because I worry that I’m making more of it than I should.
  5. We like to do several small weekend camping trips during the summer.  After Elder Perry’s last general conference talk, I committed myself to make sure that even when we are traveling, we should always go to church and take the sacrament.  This past weekend, we took a wrong turn on the way home, lost some time, and didn’t get back in time to take the sacrament.  I feel sad about that.  I need the sacrament.  This is not a question.  I’m just saying how it is.
  6. I’m hoping it’s normal to be in a summer blog slump.  I don’t know if there’s less time for writing or if I have less ideas, but I dont’ feel very bloggy productive.  And reading blogs?  Only minimally.  Anyone else feeling that way?  I’m sorry if anyone I love has been feeling neglected.
  7. Last question.  Do you have any favorite quotes or scriptures about patience?  I’d love to hear/read them.

17 thoughts on “Surviving Summer (in a nutshell)

  1. I’ll chime in on #4. Unless you and the other parents have actually had a little “it’s okay for your kid to invite herself over” chat, if you do the inviting, YOU are hosting! I’ve been caught off guard twice by a kid being dropped off as I was getting mine ready to go to the other kid’s house. I wish I’d had plans so I could explain the principle of “you called, I assumed you were inviting.” Perhaps I have just done so much of the inviting that they assume we are always hosting. But like your kids, mine love to play somewhere else once in a while.

    And why not #3 while I’m typing away. I treat the day after vacation as sort-of a vacation day. Let the kids watch movies and finish up the road trip snacks, but have them pitch in on a chore or two and get ’em to bed on time. Also, buy a gallon of milk right before you leave and have a freezer meal all ready for dinner the day after so you don’t have to go to the store quite yet:)

  2. We’re still in school here in Canada (sigh), so we have yet to start summer vacation. So I still read blogs, and it’s sad that the posting on many is down. I have to find other things to do with my time 🙂 We do the weekend trips too, but come back Saturday night. So it’s really only a one night trip and all day Sat, but then we are sure to make it back in time for church. As for the friends invite- if you ask someone to play then that child comes to your house. At least that’s what I assume. And I think it’s nice if it evens out somewhat. Play at my house one day and yours another kind of thing. I have the same problem with reading. My grade 1 reads at grade 4 level, so the books are way too inappropriate for her. Not sure about boy books, but Little House on the Prairie series? They do have Farmer Boy. I’d love some book suggestions too.

  3. Here is the skinny on the neighbor hood friend thing. At least as far as i see it. When someone knocks on the door and asks if someone can play, it is NOT assumed that they will play at your house. It is just a general can you play. You, as the mom get to qualify that however you want to. For example ” Yes, but only outside, where you can hear me call you.” or “Yes, but only at your house and for 30 minutes”. or “No, not until he finishes his jobs” You shoudl never feel obligated to do it at your house and I don’t think anyone even expects that. I usually send my kids out to try to FIND a friend to play with instead of having them call to ask because I want them to get the exercise and because I want them out of my hair for a minute. Juat tell tham what you want and you should be fine. Hope this helps!

  4. Must comment about the friend issue. I basically second everything that Ellen said, but I’m tired and a tad out-of-sorts so I feel like a mini-rant (so many dashes, so fun) is needful. Little kids who invite themselves over to play is probably my number one parenting pet peeve. I don’t have an anything goes, relaxed personality. I like structure and I like thoughtfulness and I like manners. So I like to set up play dates ahead of time with a parent. I like the playdates to have a beginning time and an ending time, even for my 8 yr. old. I’m a little uptight in this area, but I think knowing what works for you and what doesn’t is one of the perks of being an adult. So I stick to my guns in that area.

    The day or two after vacations is like a halfway house (for me and the kids). My expectations and plans are minimal. We ramp back up to normal gradually. And I constantly have to remind myself that doing ANYTHING with kids is not usually fun. It’s moments of joy and pleasure mixed with a ton of preparation and work. So I try to remind myself in the drudgery before, during, and after any “fun” activity, that the memory my kids are making comes without the baggage I bring with my adult perspective. And it’s worth it to give them that memory. We returned just today from a camping trip/amusement park mini-vacation. And, boy, do I need a vacation!

  5. 1. I have sad news for you…your kids are just entering that “annoying” stage. To me it approaches naughty when I have asked them to stop and they don’t listen. But I think sometimes they are just annoying and I have to try to not be annoyed (And then try to not feel guilty for being annoyed)
    2. Have they read Hank the Cowdog? I can’t remember how old S was when she read those for a while, but I think they were clean and seemed kind of “boyish”.
    3. Ugh, post-vacation is the worst. I usually tell them they have two days to still be lazy, and then we go back to regular schedule, and that helps.
    4. I tend to be a little too structured in the play date area, so I don’t think I will say anything about this.
    5. We try to find a sacrament meeting wherever we travel, and just go there so we don’t have to rush to get back. Although, truth be told, we don’t go away a lot on the weekends with my husband’s schedule. People ask me all the time why I go to church when I feel so lousy, but the simple truth is I NEED the sacrament so I can keep sane feeling lousy for the next six days.
    6. I’m totally offended you haven’t checked my blog lately. I’m posting like crazy– really, really important stuff.
    7. #6 was all a lie. I have the summer blog slump, too. And,
    “Patience is tied very closely to faith in our Heavenly Father. Actually when we are unduly impatient, we are suggesting that we know what is best – better than does God. Or, at least we are asserting that our timetable is better than his. Either way we are questioning the reality of God’s omniscience…
    “In our approach to life, patience also helps us to realize that while we may be ready to move on, having had enough of a particular learning experience, our continuing presence is often a needed part of the learning environment of others. Patience is thus closely connected with two other central attributes of Christianity—love and humility.”
    -Neal A. Maxwell from this excellent 1980 conference address:

    Sorry I just posted a whole post on your comments section. And, now I’m done blogging for the day. 😉

  6. Hi, I rarely comment here, but I was going to suggest Meg’s reading list and I see Cocoa beat me to it! My boys have also liked the Boxcar Children books, Dick King-Smith books, and the Happy Hollisters mysteries. We do a lot of read-alouds too. Last summer they all loved the Little House books and this year we’re working through Narnia.

    This doesn’t answer a specific question, but a sanity saver for some of us who homeschool and therefore get to be with our children 24/7 year round is quiet time in the middle of the day. When they quit taking naps, keep up a mandatory quiet, in their bedroom, separated from each other time. They can do what they want, but it must be in their rooms. The plus is, mom gets quiet time too! They will learn how to entertain themselves, and sometimes a couple of hours apart from each other can do wonders for their ability to get along with each other when they’re back together. Just a thought. ( When I don’t do this, I notice that I relish my nighttime alone time a little too much too.)

    And my favorite talk on patience is Elder Uchtdorf’s “Continue in Patience”

  7. 3. So many times after a vacation or even a fun day trip I’ve found myself wanting to shake my kids and say, “I just gave you SO much, you should be EXTRA grateful and happy and helpful–not worse than ever!” I keep having to remind myself that it doesn’t work that way–that kids who’ve been indulged are more likely to get selfish and lazy (as well as tired and stressed). And I’ve many times been amazed at how when I keep my kids’ playtime and privileges on a much narrower trickle, my kids are happier and more helpful.

    But I don’t really have advice to prevent the post-vacation naughtiness, other than to say that when I remind myself to expect it–and also remind myself that they’ll come around after a few day’s of structure–it’s a bit easier to deal with re-entry. I’m also not advocating against giving kids fun and vacations; I love to indulge my kids. But it just helps me be patient afterward when I remember that indulged kids aren’t always the best-behaved ones. And neither are kids who’ve just been taken out of *their* comfort zones (no matter how much more fun the out-of-the-comfort-zone was, it’s still not home) and dragged hither and thither.

    4. I often have these types of conversations with my 7-year-old or 4-year-old: “No, you can’t call your friend to ask if she can play because I can’t watch you guys right now.” “But we’ll play at her house.” “No, if you call to ask her to play, you have to be willing for her to play at our house. And I can’t do that right now.” “But we don’t need anyone to watch us.” “Yes, you do.” My kids don’t like my position on this since it often cuts into their playtime opportunities, but I think it’s basic etiquette. Otherwise, it’s a bit like inviting someone to a restaurant and then expecting them to pay for your meal.

  8. I have noticed that my kids are more ill-behaved after a trip where they were allowed to get away with things. Our last trip we tried to be just as strict as always, not mean, just keeping the rules we keep at home. The return was much smoother. (One of my biggest pet peeves is when we are around others and I correct my child. Another adult invariably says “Oh, it’s okay.” No, it’s not. I say it’s not because I’m the mom, not you!!!) We also plan to go to church wherever we are. It is fun to see how thingsa re done and meet new people.

    As for # 4, it really, REALLY depends on the kids and their family life. When it comes to neighborhood kids, I just assume they will stay at my house. I don’t always trust the other parents to be aware or even home. When the neighborhood kids come calling, my rule is that the kids go outside. There is absolutlely no “Your video games are cooler than mine” scenerio. We had some kids that I half-jokingly refered to as “Lord of the Flies ” kids who were ALWAYS at our house. They lived with their dad who didn’t want to be bothered with a bunch of wild children. They came over all the time. Even on rainy days. I made them work in the garden and clean the yard. If they acted up I yelled at them just like I would my own kids. I knew exactly what I was getting when they showed up the day we moved in. Much as it irritated me I just accepted that they needed more than a few hours of playtime. On a different note, I allowed my son to go to a friend’s house, met the parents, thought I had checked everything out, etc. Turns out that kids had no morals and no real adult supervision. Basically he ran the house. After a couple of bad experiences we all decided that boy was not a person we wanted to associate with. Even with young children there is so much more to a “play date” than playing.

  9. I have a list of books that I have reviewed on my blog, but realized that your ages are sadly lacking…I must remidy that as that age is so important. 🙂

    My boys have passed that age and loved to read, but we are not as classical as so many homeschooling families. I am not sure if the books you are looking for are like my suggestions, but here are a few….

    Geronomo Stilton was a big hit with my boys. Fun illlistrative words, bigger words for them to learn, fun illistrations
    Bailey School Kids was a great intro to “chapter books”
    Boxcar children. Only one pf my boys enjoyed these, but he read them all.
    Magic Treehouse for older readers
    Dinosaur Cove

    Hope there is something there for your kids. (I can’t remember if they are girls or boys, but the ones above are pretty unisex)

    Have a wonderful day

  10. Books
    Beverly Cleary, Henry Huggins, Henry and Ribsy, etc.
    Mr. Poppers Penguins
    The Castle in the Attic
    Third Grade Detective series
    Indian in the Cupboard
    Homer Price
    Boxcar Children series

    My girls are the same ages, but I made sure to only suggest books that were good for boys. Hope that helps!
    And have fun on your camping trips. We just got back from a camping trip at the beach and had a great time. We flew kites on the beach. It was the last of our family fun for the year because my husband deploys, so just remember to enjoy that you do have fairly regular help! 🙂

  11. I have a huge problem with play dates right now. The little boys on the other side of our fence are nice kids, but a lot of work to supervise. They knock on our door at least once or twice a day wanting to play. I have heard their mother yell horrible expletives at them several times. So I feel guilty when I don’t let them come over, but this cannot be a ‘give and take’ situation where they play at both houses. Their mom is constantly telling me to just send my kids over there to play. (not gonna happen!) I should probably just be honest with her about it. If they weren’t so much work I’d have them over more- I just feel bad about the whole thing.

    Sorry I have no good advice on this, but I really just wanted to commiserate. When I was little you would just go outside and play with whoever was out. Why does it have to be so complicated?

  12. A friend just recommended the “Peter and the Star Catchers” series to me and we’ve enjoyed it! My boys are 5 and 7 and it’s about Peter Pan before Wendy. I got it on for a recent car trip and the narrator is Jim Dale who also did the Harry Potter series. Fun adventure and not too hard for a good 6 year old reader!

  13. I came across a series called “Believe and You’re There” a couple of weeks ago, and they are really neat. They are all stories about modern-day kids who step into magical paintings and are there to witness events of the Savior’s life- and I know there are others about Ammon and Lehi that we haven’t gotten yet. They use pretty easy language and the chapters are short- great way to tell the stories of Jesus in an imaginative way!

    And sometimes when I decide my kids are breaking all the rules and flooding the toilets and leaving the freezer wide open just to be vindictive, I go read some of these quotes, and they help. They’re not about patience per se, but by the time I’ve read a few, I’m laughing and crying and feeling better about parenthood in general.

    My blog has been dismally ignored lately too, and my kids aren’t even old enough to go to school that they could be out of. Is it because from our youth we are programmed to completely cease our “extracurricular activities” in the summertime so we can recuperate for the coming academic year? That’s what I’m going with. 🙂

  14. Hi, I’m DeAnna and I read your blog, just haven’t commented until now.

    I have noticed that my kids are sooooo horrible after a vacation. I don’t know what it is about vacations, I think it is worse though after we have visited relatives where they are allowed to bend the rules a bit.

    1. Do you think that maybe there’s a really fine line between children being naughty and children just being annoying? I think every mom lumps it into one at some point in time!

    2. Check out your local library for a summer reading club

    3. Any post-vacation tips? A very long nap…wait that is what I feel like doing when we get home! Having a few lazy days seems to be the way to go!

    4. Good etiquette for play dates would involve a phone call from you/your child to the child/parent they want to play with; at least that is how we do it. I also make sure that I have gotten to know the parent’s of the child that my child is having the play date with; I am just a little paranoid about that one.

    6. It is just about the start of summer holidays here and I can already see myself too busy to write, let alone read blogs.

    7. It is no use crying/yelling/screaming over “spilled milk”, the milk is already spilled just clean it up and get on with life. “Pick your battles.” There are moments where I have an exhausted, over stimulated child who has a complete meltdown, choose to react with patience to avoid the bigger meltdown, fight and hurt feelings & just get the kid into bed. Patience is so much easier said than done when it comes to children!

  15. Hey Steph. I’ve got no great solutions, but check out Ambleside Online for book lists. Click on “Curriculum” then probably Year 1 and Year 2 or 3? Look at the books for Free Reading. Some *really great* books there.

    Loved reading the ideas other readers had, too. 🙂

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