Summer Strategizing Wrap-up

Now that summer is unofficially over, I thought I’d write about the results of my Summer Strategizing.  At the beginning of the summer, I wrote this post about how I was planning on filling up my kids’ summer days with summer school, chores and summer activities.  You know that saying, “The best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry?” I think my summer was a bit like that.

I did have some success in engineering the kids’ summer school programs. Olivia completed the SAT prep course and Drivers Education. Nico and Erica both completed their High School entrance exam course, and Eric even did an Algebra review course and a painting class. Diego, well, he had the most fun, taking a science and geography class. All in all, I think it’s safe to say we spent about a small fortune keeping our kids in school this summer. Did they learn anything? I hope so. I do know that the girls learned how to navigate public transportation pretty well, so if Olivia can’t pass her driving test, at least she’ll know how to ride the bus.

One of the other plans I had for my kids this summer was to work on some chores. I intended for them to start dinner while I was at work. Yeah. That didn’t go so well. I still found myself rushing home from work, faced with four hungry kids who apparently didn’t know how to cook anything but a Lean Pocket in the microwave.  There was one day, when Olivia had an urge to bake and when I got home from work I saw this:

Lemon bars and an apple pie. Both were delicious, and since she had even washed all the dishes, I guess I can  overlook the fact that no one really cooked dinner while I was at work. Oh well.

Another task I set up for the kids was to complete their summer homework.  Each of the kids had summer reading to do and Nico and Erica both had to write essays  on their books.  Watching Nico sit at the computer to compose a paragraph is like watching paint dry. On the other hand, getting Erica to read her assigned books is like pulling teeth. I don’t know if she finished reading Pride and Predjudice and the Watsons Go to Watsonville, but she is so crafty, that one, she should be able to write her essay even if she didn’t finish the books.

Now that Labor Day has come and gone and summer is unofficially over, I can say that while I certainly did manage to fill my kids days with activities, I did not really enjoy the season. There were some fun days, but with my grandmother’s passing, and the hectic pace at work and home, I feel like I just got through it.  Barely.  I think part of it had to do with the fact that this summer we did not not really getaway.  Not that we really go anywhere glamorous, but at minimum our family goes camping. Sad to say, we didn’t even do that. I think it makes a difference to get away and break up the routine.  I hope we can manage some type of getaway next summer.

A vacation would be great in the Fall but unfortunately, my life has become all about studying. In August, I received news that my job was offering promotions in Spring 2012. Unfortunately, in order for me to be eligible for a promotion at my government agency job, I have to take a test and rank high enough to be placed on a promotability list. The test will be given in October and will cover materials in these notebooks:

I have to say that studying law and policies as a 48 year-old with a family of four kids, while working full-time, is a lot more challenging then studying law and policies and having a social life as a 28 year-old law student.  So, I hope you will hang in there with me if I am not able to post regularly for the next six weeks. After October, I hope to back to my regularly scheduled life.  Until then, I better check on dinner. No,  the kids aren’t cooking (still), and after dinner I have to hit the books.

Happy end of Summer. Welcome Fall.

Top Reasons Why August and I Are Not Friends

It’s the final week of August and the end of a long summer in our house. I enjoy summer for many reasons, also because the days are a nice change of pace from the hectic schedule of the school year.  But this summer was different, and I find myself looking forward to a new season, even if it means another busy school year.  However, before  I can get started on the new school year, I have to get through August, and August is the month I hate most in summer.  August is the month when I scramble to find camps for the kids to fill in my big gap in day care; August is the month when summer temperatures heat up and relegate my already restless kids indoors; and August is the month when my temper and my kids’ tempers are as short as the days are long. Here’s a few other reasons why August is not my favorite month:

1) School Supply Shopping.

Beginning in August the kids start bugging to go shopping for school supplies. I try to put off this chore as long as possible, but not so long that the stores run out of supplies.  Usually in August, the kids’ schools send a list of school supplies they will need. It is usually very specific with things like, “College Ruled Spiral Notebook with Three Subjects and Pocket Dividers,” or 3 packages of 150 quantity 4×6 White Notecards, Unlined. Can you tell why I hate shopping for these supplies? Sometimes I feel like I am on a scavenger hunt, and when I am done running between at least 2 stores, hunting for everything on their list in triplicate, I have the pleasure of spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $250.00!

2) Summer Homework Torture

Nico, Erica and Olivia all go to schools which assign summer reading and math packets.  The reading assignment also includes an essay which must be turned in the first few days of school. For Olivia, she gets tested on her summer reading.  I know the kids should read throughout the summer anyway, but something about this assigned reading makes what I consider a pleasure, a pure hardship for them, and me.  In August I become a complete nag about their unfinished reading, essay writing, and math homework.  Sometime after the dismissal bell in June and the beginning of August, my kids’ brains turn to mush and they cannot write a complete paragraph without constantly  interrupting their work with bathroom breaks, trips to the refrigerator, or watching “5 minutes” of television. It is pure torture, watching them “write” the essays. It’s usually not until the final day before school that I can light a fire under their *&!$ and they can get their summer homework done.

3) The Birthday Season

In August I begin preparing for the birthday season. Beginning on August 1, we celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. This is the kick-off event for the month of birthday celebrations which culminates in my father-in-law’s September birthday.  In the coming weeks I will have to plan no less than three of my kids’ birthday parties. I like to get the party planning  done before school starts so I don’t have that to contend with sending out invitations as I cover text books, shop for last-minute school supplies and fill out a seemingly unending stream of enrollment forms, medical clearances and notices of emergency contact information.

4) Summer Let Down

After I am done buying school supplies, nagging my kids about summer homework, and planning birthday parties, I can stop and reflect on the past couple of months. This is when I realize that summer has whizzed by and I feel like I haven’t really enjoyed it. Truth be told, even if I could spend my days enjoying all that summer offers, I would probably still be let down when August ends, because as an adult, summer just isn’t summer like I remember it. Summers used to be carefree, and fun, with nothing to do spend my days waking late, swimming in my parents’ pool, reading books that I chose, watching All My Children, and  hanging out with my friends. Sigh. How can I help but feel let down when August comes and, if I am lucky, I made it to the beach a few times, and maybe had a few barbecues.  The other day Diego reminded me of all that I am missing from the fun of summer.  Juan and I were headed out the door for work, and I suggested to our nanny that she take the kids to the local city pool or maybe a matinée to beat the heat. Diego asked, “Do you have to work everyday? Can’t you have summer vacation too?” August reminds me that I haven’t stopped enough in the business of the season to enjoy the fun of  summer.

So, now that I am wrapping up my summer, and the kids will all be back in school this week, I have planned one last hurrah. This Labor Day Weekend I’ll be hosting a barbecue, and I’ll be combining it with another birthday party.

Sunday Offerings – Three Simple Joys

It’s a Sunday in Summer and, I confess, I didn’t make it to church today.  But, I did spend some time thinking about the following simple things that bring me joy and make me grateful.

!. Dodge Ball

Yesterday, Nico came home from a week at Boy Scout camp. He was covered in grime, and filled with stories of his camp adventures. He told me what he did each day, but when he told me about his last day at camp, his ever-deepening voice was filled with pride.

He told me that on the last day of camp, the camp staff challenged the scouts to an epic game of dodge ball. The game started out with about 30 boys playing against an equal number of staffers. Little by little, as the camper or staffer was hit by the ball, or failed to catch the ball, the player was eliminated. The game got down to Nico, the lone camper, against 3 of the kitchen staff. Nico threw the ball at one of the staffers. The ball hit the staffer’s legs and bounced off, hitting the second staffer, and both in one throw. With the game down to Nico and the last staffer, Nico threw the ball at the staffer. The staffer bent down to catch the ball, caught it, and then dropped it! The other campers who had been eliminated but were still watching the game let out a loud cheer for Nico.

The scouts won! Nico proudly told me how he was carried back to camp on the shoulders of his fellow scouts. What a great moment for him. Nico, the last man standing, triumphs in dodge ball!

2. Magical Cups

I have been helping my mom go through some of my grandmother’s things since my grandmother’s passing. It has been difficult and discouraging because she had so much stuff. We can’t just toss it out because some of it has value, even if it is just sentimental value. I took a few plant cuttings from my grandmother’s garden in the hope that maybe, in her death, my grandmother’s green thumb will have magically passed onto me. Yeah, we’ll see how that goes…

I also took these:

These are metal cups. They are the two remaining from a set which is long gone. When I was a child my grandmother would serve me milk in these cups. The milk always tasted so good when I drank it from these cups. Even though my stomach can no longer tolerate milk I wanted the cups, so my mom let me have them. Yesterday Diego, who rarely drinks milk, asked for a glass to go with his PB and J. Juan served him milk in the cup. Later, Diego asked for more milk from the cup. He said he had never tasted milk like that before. He told me the cup was “magical.”

I may not have my grandmother’s green thumb, but I have her magical cups.

3. Greener Pastures

About two weeks ago, Juan declared war on the grass. He looked at the patchy, yellow, poor-excuse-for-a-lawn we had in the backyard and said, “You and me lawn. I am going to win.” He went out and bought grass seed, lawn topper and set our sprinklers to automatic. Friday, we came home from a couple of nights out of town and we saw this:

Juan Wins!

Grass. Growing. And it is green!

Yeah. Maybe my grandmother’s green thumb went to Juan instead of me?

What about you? What simple things bring you joy? What simple things make you grateful?

Sunday Offerrings – A Day at the Races


Today we went to at a Cub Scout event, the Soap Box Derby. The Derby is an annual event where the boys race homemade cars. The boys steer the cars with their feet as it goes along the slightly downhill, winding course. In case things get a little scary on those hairpin turns, the boys use a hand brake to slow themselves down. The runs are timed and the boys compete against each other.

Diego’s Cub Scout pack is a really nice group of families and boys. I like the cub scouting program because I think it helps to remind boys about what it means to be a kid. The kind of kid who plays outdoors in the water on hot summer days, goes camping, and takes hikes though the woods. Sometimes my boys become so hooked into the video games and television they forget about going outside and playing around. Today, they were reminded of that.

And I was too.

My "pit crew" readies me for a race.

But Diego did much better than I did.

Here’s my attempt:

Obviously, Diego did a lot better than I did!

3rd Place Finish!!

Summer Strategizing

We had a beautiful weekend here in Southern California, but instead of spending it outdoors, I spent a lot of it indoors, with this:

What is it? Well just a snapshot of how I have to plan our summer.  For many,  summer is about long, lazy days filled with sun, swimming, and NO SCHOOL. But for others, like myself, summer also means endless weeks  that need to be filled with summer camps, summer school or childcare.  With four kids and three separate households, this is no easy feat.  To make matters worse, my summer strategizing has become increasingly complicated since my kids have grown older and they no longer want to spend the day crafting key chains and swimming. My teens would rather do something targeting their special interest, like sleeping, video gaming, sleeping, watching TV and sleeping.  With the exception of 6 year-old Diego, this is the first summer when I will not be sending them to day camp, while Juan and I are at work.

After a lot planning, scheduling my  summer in weekly increments, and coordinating with the other parents (Nico’s Dad and Olivia and Erica’s Mom) , we have decided that the older kids will take a summer school class or two and then spend the rest of their time at home. Now, my vision of “kids at home” is probably vastly different from what they think they will be doing.  I plan on giving them a list of chores, including dinner preparations, requiring them to work on their summer homework packets and reading lists, and then when this is done, they’ll have some time to “chill.” I am sure this will go exactly as I am planning.

One thing I do know for sure, is that even though my summer planning requires a lot of coordination, this year is a bit simplified because I will have all three older kids going to one location. ONE LOCATION! This is huge.  With one high schooler, two junior highers and a first grader,  the regular school year means we have three different schools and three different drop offs and pick ups.  This summer the older kids’ classes are at ONE campus. Yeah, this should be easy, right? Well, it is easier knowing that I will have one stop, but that would be too simple.  It turns out that the classes for the kids are all at different times.  One of them even the has a 2 hour break in the middle, and the others are done at different times.  And unfortunately, the campus isn’t close enough to our house to make it easy for everyone to come and go according to their varied schedule.  I spent a lot of  time this weekend considering  routes to school, planning how I could rearrange my work schedule options and strategizing about schedules and transportation. Bikes? Buses? Walking? Carpool? And what about those weeks when the kids are in the other parent’s house? Yeeesh. It’s enough to make me wish for year-round school or at least the good old days when they were content with making key chains and crafting lanyards.  Maybe an afternoon of sleeping,  video games, sleeping, TV and lazing around the house isn’t so bad after all?