If you're like me, summer vacation brings feelings of the good, the bad, and the ugly, the latter due mostly to how much I haven't prepared for the transition.

Rather than be worn out or feel summer will fly by without getting anything done, consider a few key things you want to have happen, delegate what you can, and let the rest Forrest Gump — "messy is as messy does."

For example, I do not want to be making lunch AND dinner daily, so my children (able, mobile, foraging) each take a day of the week to make a simple lunch (pbj with apple slices, cheese quesadillas with corn, etc). The order is simple — since I have an aversion to making chore wheels I start with the youngest on Monday and go down through the ages until Friday. Dishes are done by the children using the opposite age direction.

To start the transition happily, and with least resistance, our children know that for the first three days post-school they party hearty — staying up late, no major projects, arising as they desire in the morning. This not only makes them feel they're on vacation, but they learn a thing or two. As in, my eldest son said to me on the fourth day that he was felt groggy and was tired of staying up so late. Music to my ears.

After the three-day extravaganza, we begin the fun summer schedule (the word"fun" is added merely to promote the idea that the new schedule is officially considered fun). This means that the morning hours are devoted to their personal chore zone (room and one assigned rotating chore), one to two pages of workbook, and some reading.

Absent a chore wheel we keep it simple — four major zones, four children, the names slide down on the calendar each week. The zones include messy house spots that matter the most to me (i.e., places visitors will possibly visit and do not want to be grossed out) such as the front entry and boys' bathroom (the job that NO ONE wants).

Feel free to schedule in summer projects that you can do as a family. My summer list was made back in October, but rather than have it perceived as "Mom's Must Do List for Her Personal Slaves," we first discussed in family council this past weekend what projects THEY thought we needed to complete.

I received their similar suggestions as completely new concepts to me and fabulous ideas at that. During the morning time we'll work on one home project throughout the week — no major stress, just some yard work or declutter closets for about 15 to 30 minutes. We also listed the Rewards section (ice cream sundaes, bowling, picnic in the park) because for us, some chores go down sweeter with a spoonful of sugar (or Cold Stone, same thing).

By this time, it's lunch, and they are pretty much done with mother and structure. This means two things: I will not be subjected to the fateful words "I'm bored" and, "it's playtime with friends" (which translates to resting time for mother and wee ones, and hopefully mother can get them down before she falls into a coma herself).

This euphoric time of day usually lasts until dinner (for the children playing, that is). After which it's family time first, usually for some s'mores in the canyon or impromptu water fight with Dad and the Incredible Hulk Super Soaker.

While it won't be done this way exactly every day, 80 percent makes me a happy mama and keeps the home running generally smoothly. If this sounds a bit too structured for you and the thought of doing such a schedule is giving you dry heaves, no worries. Simply choose a few things that will work best for your situation to include time for work, play and connect as a family. Lastly, include an hour for mom to rejuice, which does goes down sweeter with a little Cold Stone.

LIFETip: Choose a simple summer schedule as a family, post it on a board or fridge, and use it to create a summer of fun and functional memories!


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