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?

Design by Sawyer Pennington

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". Stay tuned as we'll be introducing new topics on a regular basis!


red head red head assets.rebelmouse.io


It's great that instead of dreaming about vacations after the pandemic, we can start planning them again. Of course, even if we're vaccinated, we still need to be careful and take precautions. I know that vacations are supposed to be a way to escape stress, but there's always stress associated with planning them, getting ready to be away, and then, ultimately, having to pay for them. Years ago, I learned the value of staycations but would take it a step further and check into a local hotel since I knew I needed to get out of the house. But I've never really been one to go on vacations – unless you call traveling out-of-town to one of Sawyer's volleyball tournaments a vacation. In many ways, one of the last "real" vacations I had was when the girls were young, and we'd try to get away every August to the Hyatt Hill Country. Although it was only a few hours away, and we didn't escape the heat and humidity, we were able to have a change of scenery, relax, and spend quality time together without everyday life interrupting.


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io


It sounds like you identified "why" you wanted a vacation, and what you wanted to accomplish. For me, I realized escaping to a great hotel with a first-class spa did not require getting on a plane, although there was a time when my vacations were based on golf courses I wanted to play, museums I wanted to see, or friends I wanted to visit. The key is knowing your objective. And, by the way, the same logic applies to business trips, now that Zoom (and other virtual meeting options) has proven that meetings, and even conferences, can be done remotely. Obviously, more efficiently than in-person, but with clear objectives can be as productive and maybe even more so. Interestingly, many people are planning "revenge travel" but I doubt that business travel will be as quick to recover.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • Before you travel, do you take time to think about the purpose or objective of the trip? Why or why not?
  • Are there different ways to achieve the same objectives? What are the pros and cons of each?
  • How has the pandemic changed your thoughts about traveling?
Design by Sawyer Pennington

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". Stay tuned as we'll be introducing new topics on a regular basis!


red head red head assets.rebelmouse.io


I have two confessions. First, until we wrote our book and you insisted on having it printed in the U.S.A. , I never thought about the importance of buying American-made products. I had always focused on price and quality, not where it's made. My second confession is even though I became more mindful of buying American, I still didn't do it. But when I heard President Biden, in his first address to Congress , say, "All the investments in the American Jobs Plan will be guided by one principle: American tax dollars are going to be used to buy American products made in America that create American jobs" I realized that not only should I do more, but I wanted to. But how? Especially as I need to be cost-conscious and products that come from overseas are usually cheaper!


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io


Saying it is the first step to doing it. Then, get in the habit of always "checking labels" – whether it is a bigger purchase, like a car or major appliance, or smaller items, like clothing or household items. And, understanding your motivation might help. Is it a function of being patriotic, or about job creation? (FYI, buying American has a ripple effect as it helps the companies making the products and also companies that support them – from suppliers to energy providers to accounting firms.) Maybe it is related to climate change (shipping products across the world increases carbon footprints). How much "extra" are you willing to pay for environmental and safety reasons? (Many countries can produce products cheaper than we can due to less stringent (or non-existent) regulations regarding pollution, human rights, and consumer safety.) So, deciding "why" you want to "Buy American" will help make it an important part of your buying decisions.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • Are you already buying American-made products? If not, why not?
  • Black likes to say, "Printed in the U.S.A. is the most expensive sentence of our book, as it more than doubled its cost." Why do you think she did it? What would you have done?
  • When the U.S. government says it's going to buy American, that can have a significant impact. Do you think that one person can make a difference? Explain your answer.

We ended our March column, RED & BLACK … Don't Regret Your Regrets?, with me telling Red, "I do not 'do' regrets," but our actual conversation continued as she wanted to know how that is even possible to do. Knowing that she loves lists, I decided to put one together for her.

As a bit of backstory, having loved ones die, especially untimely deaths, can have a powerful impact. That is what happened to me growing up. It made me realize that the future is not a guarantee, but merely an incentive. And that, in turn, had a direct influence on my priorities. And, how I approach life … with no regrets.

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