Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summertime ... and the livin' is easy....

I love that song. Every time a new artist uses a clip of it, I always think of the way I heard that lullaby first -  the slow, jazzy, smooth sound of Billy Holiday. She can make a shopping list sound deep and soulful. It reminds me of summers when I was young, having nothing to do, feeling warm, and listening to the birds go crazy outside the windows. Even though I was too young to know exactly what difficulties I would face when I got older, I instinctively knew that those moments were something to cherish. The longs days and sparkling nights without anything specific to do were a recharge for my little soul.

I feel so blessed to have the summer with my kids. I am trying to allow my girls the ability to find that peace, but balance it with the kinds of activities that I enjoyed as well. Libraries, museums, even just playing at the park are all things that I have planned and are usually free. Just by letting them get out of the house for an hour or so a day, they are all much better behaved than I ever expected them to be. When we are at hom, they are willing to do chores - cheerfully even - and they are willing to keep themselves occupied without too much arguing.

Of course, sisters still bicker and every child whines sometimes. I have said before that there are only three reasons kids get grouchy - tired, hungry, or bored. FlyLady has added an additional few steps in there and has created a tool that we have been using for a few years now. I started using it with my oldest and found that it even worked well when my youngest was a toddler. She calls it HALTT and it is an acronym for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Thirsty, and Tired. When things get out of hand or they just start whining we ask them if they need a HALTT. We go over the list together (with the condition that they are calm first) and we set out to fix whatever things THEY tell me are wrong. It is amazing to see how well this works. My girls are able to accurately tell me their issues, and I am able to help them figure it out. It saves so many, "WHAT do you WANT?!?!" conversations.

I have also said before that preparation is the key to success. So, I try an make sure that the areas of HALTT are all addressed . I have snacks that I can always say "yes" to and are easily accessible to the kids, like carrot sticks or peanut butter cracker packs as well as lemonade or apple juice. I also do my best keep them on a semi-regular schedule so they get enough sleep at night and they get rest time during the day. That takes care of Hungry, Thirsty, and Tired. The Angry and Lonely parts are a little more difficult to tackle, but is always the challenge for any child during the summer. This is where the scheduled trips and activities come into play. If they are busy, they are less likely to fight, and if they are out and about, they are less likely to be lonely.

In my quest to create a summer filled with happy memories (instead of boredom and bickering) I have gone so far as to make a detailed schedule for the rest of the summer. Depending on what is already scheduled for that week, I have created themes for each week and have found free or cheap activities to do. For instance, next week ends with July 4th, so I have planned a trip to a local memorial park and an early morning visit to The USO at DFW to help greet the troops coming home from overseas. I hope to go swimming once a week (which should be free except for the one time purchase of a family Summer pass from in city) and to the library on another day each week (hopefully, to find books related to our theme.)

We will still have most of the days to ourselves at home. I believe that kids should have an opportunity everyday to explore their own minds and find something to occupy themselves. Besides, I still have my own energy limits to consider. My girls are all very good at understanding when I need to stop or rest. They have so much compassion, it chokes me up sometimes. They also have lots more energy than I do, so having them do extra chores around the house is just smart.

The only glitch to this whole idea is if I get a job. I may or may not start work before the end if the summer, and if I do, I will have to shuffle a lot of things. The idea of the schedule is a really good one though, so I think, if it comes down to it, I will move as many activities as I can to the weekend and pray they don't kill each other during the week while I am working,


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