Summertime can be a double-edged sword (is that expression still used?!) to parents of school-age children. We know having more and longer (yes, I’m talking sunlight, but some days seem like way more than 24 hours) days that your kids are around can be both wonderful and challenging. That’s why a little bit of thought and planning to create a simple (and realistic) list of ideas can make the difference between a summer you’ll never forget and a summer you hope never to repeat. The funny thing is that as I re-read my list, I realized it applies to kids home from college and even empty-nesters.

When I suggested to Black that we have a checklist or menu of items to amuse or, at least, occupy kids over the summer (something that almost every parent with kids home on summer break searches for every year), I thought my work was already done as I'd pull out the list I created years ago for my daughters. Except that I forgot it had been on a computer that no longer exists, and although a copy might be somewhere in a stack of filing, I'd have to start over. Which turned out to be a good thing …


Why? Because it made me stop and think about what would be the most effective – and memorable – activities to include. Please keep in mind these worked for me, and I offer them as food for thought but know there are so many fun things to do with kids over the summer

  1. Calm Down & Cool Off
    Some of my best summer memories (as a kid and as a parent) are the screams of happiness and fun that can only happen at a pool. There's just something about the combination of sun and water that never gets old. When my girls were growing up (in Texas, where the heat and humidity can be oppressive), we'd take advantage of the extended summer pool hours most days as it'd provide a break that the girls and I would look forward to all day. (I miss those days – not only the time with them but also because I was able to read several books every summer by the pool.)
  2. It's Time To Get Cooking
    Most kids like to eat (even the finicky ones) and, when given the opportunity, love to "play" in the kitchen. Yes, it requires different recipes for different ages and skill levels, but just a few minutes on the internet will give you a wealth of cooking ideas as well as lists of cookbooks for kids. The best part is that besides getting the kids involved in the planning and preparation, it's a great way to "teach" them other life skills, such as putting together a shopping list and figuring out a budget.
  3. A Summer Break For Your Wallet
    Great summer memories and adventures can be FREE. Most museums and historical sites have free days (or nights), and even those that charge a fee usually have reduced children's ticket prices. And every town and city has so many (FREE) places to explore or spend time – whether it's parks, gardens, libraries, farmer's markets, or even just a new area of town – that you'll need to start a list of everything you'll want to do. And for those that like to ride bikes, you can turn an ordinary bike ride around the neighborhood into an adventure by exploring someplace new (especially if you're able to transport your bikes).
  4. Turn Boredom Into Productive Projects
    Who says you can't have fun and be productive at the same time? Almost every summer when the girls were growing up, we'd (whether all together, individually, or sometimes the girls working together insisting that mom not get involved) do a bedroom clean up and clean out. It became a summer project where they could do a little or a lot at a time, going through things to either tidy up, throw out, donate (a great way to "teach" about charity), or their favorite, sell at a garage sale. Which then became another project … such as making signs, setting up sales tables, and having a lemonade stand (ours always benefited The Make-A-Wish Foundation).
  5. Remember To Leave Time To … Do Nothing
    I went from being a stay-at-home mom to being a single mom that worked from home, so the time I had available for the girls over the summer changed considerably over the years. And while it taught them to respect and appreciate my time, more importantly, it allowed them time to simply be kids. Whether to "chill" (sorry, couldn't resist) or learn how to amuse themselves vs. always being spoon-fed a buffet of things to do. Kids can be amazingly resilient and, if given the opportunity, will find things that they enjoy doing – whether reading, spending time with their friends, or finding creative things to do (such as when my youngest daughter made a "school room" with her stuffed animals being the students and herself as the teacher). I know from my own experience that kids can come up with things you could never dream they'd do. But without the time for them to dream, you'll never know.
This list was written with kids in mind. Initially, since my girls are now 18 and 22, it was a bittersweet reminder of summers long gone. But as I looked at activities for kids you can do this summer (both inside and outside the house) , I realized many of these things apply to kids of all ages … so, consider remembering the kid in yourself and choosing something on the list for yourself this summer..

For our general thoughts on the "mindset" of summer, check out A Summer Rerun?

Shortly after Rich Strike, the surprise 2022 Kentucky Derby champion won (what a Cinderella story), Red made a passing comment to Black about the need to prove that his victory wasn’t a fluke. She should’ve known she’d get a list of Black’s beloved bullet points in return, pointing out what we’ve already learned,

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People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".


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I know that everyone laughs at our “Assets and Liabilities” story and how I freaked out at the mere mention of personal finance, saying you were the MBA and I was the theater major. So, when you first said “financial statements,” I was intimidated. But when you said we’d start with “assets and liabilities,” I completely lost it. I calmed down when you simplified it to “what you own” vs. “what you owe” and knew I could do that, just not assets and liabilities. How was I supposed to know they were the same thing?!

Later on, I realized that it was the terminology, not the concepts, that was causing the problem. That I was creating mental roadblocks and becoming my own worst enemy. I’ll admit that understanding what previously had been intimidating words and phrases did boost my self-confidence. Although what makes it even funnier is that I had been a straight-A student and prided myself on my vocabulary.


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Your vocabulary is probably larger than mine, and you do like to use, and sometimes overuse, “50-cent words." (And, I was shocked to learn that you have never played Scrabble.) The words we use reflect our background, interests, and even what we like to read – you have always enjoyed historical and biographical books, whereas I gravitate toward business and car magazines, which may explain why I am more comfortable with terminology and technical information that you. Not to mention, when I first started working in the oil and gas industry and with legal contracts and agreements, I had to learn what felt like a foreign language.

Regardless, you are never too young or too old to increase your vocabulary. And, it is about more than just new words as it also develops your communication skills because it lets you express yourself more clearly and concisely (well, maybe not you), and improves your reading and listening comprehension. And, it even helps your critical thinking and problem-solving skills as it expands your ability to process information.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • Have you ever felt like Red – frustrated and overwhelmed by terminology (vs. concepts)? If so, what was the situation, and how did you handle it?
  • What do you do if someone uses a word or term you do not understand? What are the advantages and disadvantages of (politely) asking them the meaning?
  • Do you think a large vocabulary is a sign of intelligence or education/experience? Explain your answer.
  • Why is it important to become familiar with terminology and vocabulary used in your area of interest? What is the best way to acquire that knowledge?

It’s been a year since my daughter went through the college selection process. Now, looking at the checklist below, I recognize how much each step helped her make the best choice for herself. (Ok, initially, I didn’t agree with her first choice, but that was because I was including my aspirations and wishes into the equation). The process also taught her how to evaluate and make other college-related decisions, something I watched her do again this year, and I know that she’ll continue to apply to other life decisions.

So, the college applications, including financial aid, are done. And even though my daughter understood what it would entail, until you're actually in the midst of it, you don't appreciate it's a lot of hard work. And stress.

Now the difficult part … waiting. Wondering which of the schools will accept you. Hoping that you'll have options, including at least one on your "wish list". Well, before you know it, you'll hear back and will be faced with having to make a decision. One that may feel like the biggest decision of your life, so hopefully, these five steps will help …

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