Back to the Basics (Or How I’m Planning Our Best Summer Yet)

Exactly how it is that the school year is just about over is baffling to me.  Maybe its because spring never really happened here this year and the transition to summer is coming rather abruptly.  Or maybe it’s simply due to the fact that I’m getting older and time is moving faster.  Regardless, the imminent end to my kids’ school year has forced me to start thinking about our plans for the summer.

As much as I want to plan the most magical wondrous summer filled with excitement at every turn, I also realize, that after a year filled with busy-ness, albeit the best kind of busy-ness, we are all ready to slow down and really take a break from it all.

Rather than get wrapped up in planning each day of the break, I stripped my summer planning back to the very basics; what do I most want to do with my kids in the summers that I have left with them as “kids” AND what do the kids most want to do in their precious summer?

So what is it that I most want to do with my kids in the summers that I have left with them as “kids”?  I want to teach them – teach them how amazing it is to have a love of reading, teach them how to take on more and more responsibility, teach them how to cook on their own, teach them how to grow things in the garden, teach them how to work towards their goals in sports, and of course teach them that hard work will, in the end, always pay off.

I also want to show them that life can be magical – that magic can be found in the routines of everyday life, AND that life can have magical surprises waiting for you when you least expect them.

What do the kids most want to do this summer?  Well, that was a question only the kids could answer.  So we sat down and compiled a list of everything they wanted to do this summer.  This is actually an activity we do before every major school break.  All of our lists are in one notebook, and it’s fun to see how the lists change as the seasons change, and as the kids change and grow up.

Some highlights from the list this for this summer:

  • Create a family band and make a song together
  • See the new Toy Story movie
  • Go on a road trip

Because I am a planner at heart, and feel ever so much better when I have a plan in place, I’ve come up with a way that I think will help us get everything we all want out of this summer.

So here’s how we’re going to get it all in.  Each week will follow the same format.

Movie Monday

Kids Make Dinner Tuesday

Field Trip Wednesday

Adventure Thursday

Fun Friday

Movie Mondays can happen either at a movie theatre, or in our house.  Since movies also aren’t a huge time commitment, the kids will plan and make shopping lists, and likely even shop, for the items they need for the dinner they will be making on Tuesday.

Kids Make Dinner Tuesdays is fun for everyone; the kids get to choose foods they really want to eat and/or make, they learn to work together and they learn to cook.  These days also often include the making of menus, and of course, setting the table and helping with the dishes.  And of course, I get to teach them what I know about cooking and baking.

Field Trip Wednesdays, Adventure Thursdays, and Fun Fridays are how I am able to work in the “magic” part of the summer.  Field trips can be educational (to the museum, the art gallery, or other cultural institutions) or they can be fun (amusement or water parks, or other fun destinations around the city).  Adventures can be to explore new parts of the city (like Underpass Park, or the Harry Potter Store).  And Fun Friday . . .well that can involve anything from a trip to a new ice cream store, to sleepovers to an amusement park visit, to creating that family band and writing a song together . . .

What I most love about this kind of schedule is that it can be changed on the fly (the kids don’t find out about what we are going to do on Wednesdays, Thursdays or Fridays until that morning), so I can plan according to how we’re feeling, the weather, or spur of the moment plans with friends.  Some weeks can be busier.  And others can be more relaxed.

I started this all by talking about how much I want to teach the kids this summer – and so far all I’ve talked about is having fun – not that teaching can’t be fun . . . but . . .

As the kids get older, I want them to take on more responsibility and to be held accountable for the things they do.  Which means, that before we have screen time, or other forms of play time in a day, the kids are expected to compete a certain number of “must-dos” each morning.  These include getting dressed and ready for the day, making their bed, and reading a novel for 30 minutes (I’ll talk more about our summer reading plans in a later post).   I have found it is far easier to get all the chores done before screens make an appearance than to try and take the screens away when it’s time to get ready for the day.

And now that my plans are in place, I can relax and start enjoying what I’m certain is going to be our best summer yet! (Which is fortuitous as one kid is already done school for the year, and the other one is done tomorrow!!).



42. Getting Back to Basics & Finding Real Joy

Have you ever had a period in your life where you were truly content?  Not just for an hour or a day, but for a stretch of a few weeks or more?  I got a text from the Husband this morning – he wanted to tell me how good he’d been feeling lately – I immediately wrote bak “Me too”.  And then it hit me – I haven’t felt this deeply contented in a long time.  Like it’s been a year and a half since I’ve felt this good.  Cue the thought train (yes, my little one has been watching Inside Out on repeat since I bought the DVD for her on a rainy day at the cottage in August).

You see, for the past little while, I’ve read a LOT of books in the “self-help” genre, I’ve tried saying “YES!” to things for the sake of trying new things and to add excitement to my life, I’ve changed my eating plan. I’ve changed my workout plan, and I’ve done different things with the kids.  And sure. I did have some fun.  But as a whole, none of it was really coming together to put me in the deep down happy place.

Over the summer, an idea popped up several times in things I read; “What would your 19-year old self do”.    Then yesterday, the Coach and I mused over why people can get into an eating pattern that helps them physically (they lose weight, get stronger, feel better) and mentally, but then just as easily fall out of it and back into their old physical and mental habits.  And finally, I read this post in Instagram from Emily Ley who was talking about how she is trying to care for herself the way she would care for a loved one.

As I look back on the past few weeks of this new school year, I realize that I’ve subconsciously gone back to basics, and back to many of the habits I had not just back when I was so deeply content, but back to when I was a teenager.  And not surprisingly, I find myself in that state of deep contentment and in possession of real joy again.

So . . . what exactly is it that I’m doing differently now??  Well, for starters, I’ve gone back to the workout and diet plan that works best for me.  I’ve experimented with lots of different things, and I know what works best for me and my body.  So that’s what I’m doing.  I’m cooking (with the kids), and having fun finding recipes to make – something I’ve always enjoyed doing – and finding ways to make sure that they fit into the way of eating that works best for me (higher in fat, lower in carbs, lacking in sugar and all processed foods).  I’m reading.  Novels.  Not “self-help” books.  And I’m drinking less caffeine – the by-product of having more energy!  And combined with a low- to no-sugar diet and very little alcohol, I’m sleeping better . . . which means much happier mornings.  Oh . . . and I got back into finding a way to have some “me” time again and a way to express some of my creativity – I’m taking my favourite sewing classes again (more on that later).

If you could go back to doing things the way you did at a time when you were truly happy, what would you have to change in your life to make that happen?

Of course the fact that the weather here has been absolutely stunning lately, that today, on the last day of summer, I could sit out in my backyard (with my curried sweet potato soup), and look out on a garden still fully in bloom while I write this . . . well . . . that does help with the happiness quotient in one’s life . . .

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