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?

Events in our lives (both personally and in the world around us) may change from year to year, but amidst the joy and festiveness of the holidays, there’s always a certain amount of stress and challenges to get everything done. This year’s no different, and I’m sure Black would suggest (sarcastically, of course) I might want to reread my tried-and-true holiday survival list …

It's official! The holiday "silly season" (as I call it) is now underway and before I know it, it will be New Year's Day and I'll be looking back and asking, "Where did December go?!" This year's holiday goals …

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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".

It may be Health Literacy Month, but it may take more than a month for you to become comfortable with the concept of “health literacy". Red found it both intimidating and boring, while Black thought the term was off-putting and might prevent people from realizing it simply means having a basic understanding of health matters, including how to Q-I-D (ask Questions, gather Information, make smart, conscious Decisions). But we both know it’s critical for all of us, and even more important than eating that proverbial apple a day.


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

As a mom, over the years, I've had to become familiar with various children's health issues and basic healthcare (and don't get me started on health insurance). But whenever it was something more than the common cold or flu, a stomach ache, or the usual scrapes and bruises, I felt like I was back in school. And between the terminology and trying to understand how the body works, I often felt like I needed a nursing degree. Not to mention, there's so much information on the internet, it can be overwhelming as well as confusing and sometimes scary.

Over the years, I've also had to deal with my aging parent's more serious health issues, and I've lost count of the pages of notes I've taken and questions I've asked. Or the conversations discussing risks vs. benefits that I've had with medical professionals and my sister. (I'm glad Black finds statistics "fun" and can look at them unemotionally because they give me a headache.)


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

Until recently, I had never heard the term "health literacy," and when I first did, I initially thought about general literacy skills such as the ability to read and understand numbers. Skills that are essential if you are sick and need health information and services, but also impact health decisions that should be simple, like filling out forms, taking over-the-counter drugs (aspirin, cold and flu remedies, etc.), and learning about the things we should (or should not) do to live a healthier life and reduce the chances of serious illness.

But then, I thought about how anytime I had to deal with a health issue, especially ones that could potentially be serious, it was a tedious, complicated, and technical challenge. And, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I like to consider myself well-read, pragmatic, and comfortable with numbers and research documents. In other words, although it impacts some people more than others, the issue of "health literacy" affects us all. (And, that does not even address what it does to the cost of healthcare.)

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • Before now, have you ever thought about "health literacy"? How would you describe it? What impact does it have on your life? How can it impact your ability to be successful in the workplace?
  • Why do health and healthcare topics seem so daunting?
  • Does health literacy only impact you when you are facing health issues? Explain your answer.
  • Have you ever had a medical situation or condition that required you to learn more about it? Where did you seek information? Did you have any problems learning about it? Explain your answers.
P.S. – You might be interested in our Conversation Starters for Financial Literacy and Digital Literacy.

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".


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

It's funny, given my love of history and being a straight-A student, I still feel that I know very little about the U.S. Constitution. Except for the obvious. That after we declared independence from England, the original “constitution” was the Articles of Confederation (don’t ask me why I remember this, although I probably memorized it for a test). But even though we called ourselves the United States of America, it gave the states too much power, and once it became obvious that it wasn’t working, was replaced by the Constitution.

And I know that it begins with what’s probably the most famous three words in this country’s history, “We the People,” and provides for a stronger federal government, with three branches (executive, legislative, and judicial) specifically designed to have checks and balances, so that no single branch would have too much power. But until recently, with all the focus on abortion and gun rights, not to mention the controversy about the Supreme Court, I had never really thought about the Constitution. Especially not the bigger picture, and how things seem to have gotten out of hand with government officials focusing on politics and positioning and forgetting those three incredibly important words … We the People.


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

Yes, not “We the Democratic Party,” not “We The Republican Party,” … We the People.

And, for someone who self-proclaimed a lack of knowledge, you gave an excellent overview. However, I will admit I am more intrigued by constitutional law than the history of the Constitution, but you cannot separate those two things. Anyway, for the same reasons you mentioned, I did some research (“homework never ends”) and was surprised to learn that the original document was only four pages long. Of course, that was hundreds of years and 27 amendments ago. But, proves it was designed to be a living document, not just history.

Unfortunately, although conceived with checks and balances, and to represent the will of the people, the Constitution and its amendments seem to have become an assortment of political powerplays, “convenient” interpretations, and polarizing arguments. All with easy-to-quote sound bites. I cannot imagine our forefathers envisioned their words would be used to manipulate or “divide and conquer” when they said, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union …”

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • What do you know about the Constitution? Have you ever really thought about what it means in terms of the United States? Or how it impacts you personally? Explain your answers.
  • Take a current major issue (abortion, gun control, same-sex marriage, etc.) that concerns you. Do you know what the Constitution has to say about it or, perhaps, more importantly, doesn’t say about it? How do we find consensus on the issue to clarify the situation?
  • Do you think a document originally created in the 1700s can still be relevant today? Explain your answer.
  • What does “We the People of the United States in Order to form a more perfect Union” mean to you? Why do you think it is the opening of the U.S. Constitution?