Lucy Lemay Cellucci

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Vacation Equation

summer2

Hey there! How’s your day going so far? What’s that? You’ve broken up two arguments between the children, Netflix is down, you’re out of milk, the dog peed on the hall carpet and the cat pooped in the bathtub again? Pardon? It’s only nine o’clock in the morning? Wow. That’s impressive! Just think … you’ve got another six weeks of this ahead of you.

I salute you, vacation comrade.

All jokes aside, I really do love the summer. It’s a great time of year to shift gears from doing to being. I spend most of my time in a bathing suit, sundress, straw hat, flip-flops and sunglasses. I relinquish my need to fuss over my appearance and give things like make-up and styling tools a rest. I walk slower, talk slower (even if I’m not drinking mojitos) and am just generally better at enjoying life. The summer has always been a time for me to recharge my batteries and undo the symptoms of stress that have accumulated over the spring and winter months. Speaking of stress, there’s nothing like having a couple of aimless, bored kids around to add to your difficulties. And though I love the fact that the summer months stretch out before me like an endless sea of possibilities, the reality of the fact is that I share my life with two young children, so at this stage of the game if I fail to plan, I plan to fail.

Fortunately for me, I am one of those creative types, and as such love nothing better than to create! So I’ve devised a plan to preserve my sanity over the summer months as I resume my role of stay-at-home mom.

Since you insist, I’ll share it with you.

electronics   Unplug our pluggables: On days when we have nothing planned, it’s tempting to let Winkin and Blinkin sit with TV or an iPad all day and use my unencumbered time to get things done around the house. But, as I’ve learned, this usually results in cranky, cabin-fevered kiddos by three o’clock in the afternoon. So, instead, even if we have nothing planned, the kids know that screen time comes to an end by eleven a.m. They have to get dressed, brush their teeth and head outdoors. We ride our bikes to the park, go on nature walks, play in the backyard, etc. … it’s not  important what they do, so long as it involves physical activity and fresh air.

 

 

WP_20140702_010[1]Plan weekly excursions: Once a week we pack a picnic lunch and eat it at a different location. The parks by our house, the arboretum, Hog’s Back – there’s no shortage of green space in Ottawa. I’m lucky to have all of this at my disposal. Placing your kids in a natural environment not only allows them to see the value of “unplugging” for a while but also provides you with a great opportunity to initiate conversations, teach them about wildlife and allow them to grasp the concept of life stretching out beyond their four walls. Relish in the opportunity to lollygag. When the kids point something out, instead of giving my typical “Yes, yes, now let’s go” response, I actually take the time to stop and look. I smell the roses.

 

WP_20140723_005[1]Rainy-Day Plan B: A wise band of musicians once told us that “the sun can’t shine everyday”. True that. It is for this reason that I have a well-stocked craft cabinet. It contains things like toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, bingo dabbers, construction paper, glue, paint, etc … you’d be surprised how fast a couple of hours will fly by with craft supplies, a package of Trident bubblegum and a rockin’ playlist of tunes (cue “Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie). Since I only whip this stuff out on rainy days, the kids haven’t yet grown tired of these activities. Other things that go over well on rainy days are trips to the library, excursions to local museums, and a crowd favourite at home, whipping up a blanket fort, popping some corn and watching a movie from inside (Of course, this means I have to be prepared to bend a little on the no-screen-time-after-11 a.m.-mandate).

WP_20140723_009[1]INTRODUCE THEM TO JOURNALING: You don’t have to be a writer to benefit from a creative activity like journaling. Each kid has his or her own journal that I try to encourage them to use a couple times a week. They have a couple of pages to fill out, tailored to their own interests, but the majority of the pages are blank. On days when we go picnicking, we bring our journals and some crayons. They can make some notes on game or story ideas they’re working on, cities they’re planning, or draw pictures of our cat sitting under a rainbow. Sometimes I’ll ask them to draw a picture or write a couple of sentences about where we are and what they see … anything to get the creative juices flowing in their imaginations.

WP_20140525_004[1]PLANT SOMETHING TOGETHER: One of the best things about having a garden is that the kids always have something of interest to draw them into the backyard. Every day, they run outside and give me a full report on what’s ready to be picked and how much weeding I have to do. Then there’s the added delight of playing with earthworms for an hour. My daughter, in particular, has turned into quite the gardening enthusiast. Every spring she’s right behind Mama, pulling weeds, turning up soil, planting seeds. The kids get up in the morning and take bowls out to collect raspberries from a bush that’s gotten so enormous, it deserves its own name. The month of July brings us treasures like fresh berries on cereal and a surplus of goodies like raspberry muffins and zucchini bread.

WP_20140718_005[1]GET SOME MORE KIDS: This one may sound a little counterproductive, but I always marvel at how much easier my children are to manage when they have “fresh meat” on the home front. Whenever a friend comes over to play, my kiddos are happily distracted. Having another kid or two at your house changes things up and gets the kids involved in kid stuff, like playing – remember when you were a kid and rode your bike to a friend’s house to play for the afternoon? Kids today have few opportunities to just be kids engaged in unstructured play. Play dates typically take weeks to orchestrate in between kids’ scheduled activities and adult commitments. When I was my son’s age, I would ride my bike in the neighborhood with my friends and play hide-and-seek and tag at the park. I would come in for meals and then take off again. In today’s society, very few parents would dare to let their kids out of their sight for that kind of unstructured play. I feel that giving kids a chance to be kids, to play, explore and learn away from the regime of structured activities and the constant, watchful eyes of adults to be something of a lost art of childhood. Our little people benefit from learning how to pass the time with games and activities of their own creation.

One of the best ways to create lasting memories with your children is to make the time to have fun together. It doesn’t have to be fancy – a couple of juice boxes, a bag of fishy crackers, a pair of toilet paper binoculars, and off you go to the park to be birdwatchers! All you need to enjoy the summer days with your children is an open attitude toward the day that is unfolding before you along with a few ideas in your back pocket. And while it’s true that a week of soccer camp doesn’t hurt either, if you approach each day as a chance to enjoy the precious, fleeting moments of our most elusive season, you may find that it makes the difference between wanting to play airplane with your children vs. wanting to be on an airplane without them.

Don’t forget your sunscreen, mamas!

xo

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