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Mom hack: (Scheduled) summer fun

Legos on the lawn. Lost and found bicycle helmets. Sidewalk Chalk Footprints on my hardwood floors. Sunscreen Fingers. All these things, to the bottomless, rhythmic hum of mowers. The signs of the season are upon us.

My tribe has spent the last few weeks – between the raindrops – in our Bonus Room: The Outdoors. I've picked up my boys, pulled out their helmets, their wheels and my lawn chair and watched them play while we wait for Big Sissy's bus after school. It's been a glorious break from the winter we had.

I recently listened to a podcast in which the line was drawn: You're either a mom who welcomes the long and unscheduled days or dreads the lack of routine. I land smack dab in the middle. While our days are longer and the routines looser, we still have structure, which the kids need. I'm kidding no one. I need it more.

While I'm determined to make sure my kids' childhoods are fun, stress free and relaxing without becoming "Camp Runamuck," this investment comes at an upfront cost to me.

If you are a parent, you either know, or need to know, to strap in for the month of March! This is when enrollment starts for summer school, church camps, community camps and so on and forth. This is a sprint to meet deadlines before getting a dreaded "At Capacity" message. My friend's husband fires up the laptop around midnight, so at 12:01 AM on Sign up Day he can enroll their girls in summer school. The spaces fill so fast, the loss of sleep is preferred over the loss of a spot!

With three kids often in three different places, I use different colored pens to write down their activities, appointments and places on a calendar. As they get older, it gets more complicated. For this summer, I printed calendar sheets for May through August, laid them out on the floor and – all Criss Cross Apple Sauced – leaned over each until every square was filled. It was somewhat mind boggling, overwhelming and even ironic, seeing as summer is a time of relaxation. Right? But, alas, it is done!

Camp orientations? Check!

Pick up camp shirts? Check!

Ready for what comes next? Check!

There is newness in every season and with summer comes that blank page. We have a picnic because we can. We go to the splash pad park because we can. We run in the sprinklers because we can. We aren't limited by the cold or early darkness other seasons here in the Midwest bring. I welcome this free time because it is when the kids' minds, mouths and imaginations really run wild. I love watching them explore the yard and turn the driveway into a chalk board while listening to them tell me all about the worlds they are creating.

I also love the routines. Depending on the week or the day this summer, they go to school or a camp or Grandma's or their beloved sitter's house. Day to day, I'm looking at those calendar boxes and mentally noting what color is what – where each child goes when – and what each child needs for that day since it changes more frequently than during the school year. As dizzying as this may seem, it is also calming to know we have a plan.

It's a good balance and I'll take it! "Balance" seems to be the elusive thing we mamas search for, but rarely find. Then, when we do, the ball moves and the board on top of it finds gravity and shifts!

I know, too well, that first snap of a cold day will come. Our kitchen counter will be filled with school papers, artwork and forms to be filled. The mad scramble for matching mittens and coats that fit will be here before we know it. As I nurse my hangover from the summer heat and usher in afternoons of banana bread baking, homework checking, begin the nonstop hustle for the best (easiest!) Sign Up Genius items and experience the inevitable moments of shock that whatever clothing I assumed would fit whatever kid come fall does not, I vow to remember what I have discovered as a parent: No season seems to last long enough. Moments – for better or worse – pass in eye blinks and the children change and grow in that same short time.

When parents who are further along in ages and stages tell me to enjoy this time because it goes by so fast, I want to be able to say, "I have. I am." and mean it. So, I shall savor each season – past, present and those yet to come. Make no mistake, I will be scheduling time to do just that!

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