Back by popular demand, here are my " Tips on Surviving Summer": I am laughing when I write this, but I remember that my husband and I actually invited friends over for a casual summer supper and served...hot dogs! Yep, hot dogs. Except back then we called them "tube steaks" as that was about the only kind of steak we could ever afford to serve, much less eat. I also fixed that culinary delight known as baked beans as a side, accompanied by that other Southern stand-by, Lay's Potato Chips. I do recall that I put out chili, slaw, cheese, onions, pickle relish, and the obligatory condiments as "toppings" for the humble hot dogs. Dessert was really fancy...ice cream sandwiches and freezer pops. I think they still make freezer pops.
The reason I tell you this is so that you will know that it is okay to entertain on a grand scale with four small children. I mean, hot dogs...don't you know that I slaved away in the kitchen for hours over that one...NOT! So, open your hearts and your homes and make it easy and fun for your friends to come over. It's actually funny to me that hot dogs are making a comeback. Of course now we only buy Nathan's All Beef...but really, you cannot get around the fact that it is still a hot dog no matter what kind of spin you put on it.
Here's another round of suggestions for you Moms.
1) Do what you can to beat the heat by buying not one, but two baby pools.
2) Don't forget the sprinkler. You can fill both pools and then set up some sort of homemade slip and slide (use an old tarp) or sprinkler game for the older kids. We also used to run our bikes and big wheels through the sprinkler for a "car wash." I kept buckets loaded with dish soap and sponges for this bi-weekly event.
2) Religiously attend the weekly story hour at your local library. My kids loved, loved, loved the puppet shows. The older ones tried to act like they were too old or too cool, but they never argued when I said that we were going. They also were allowed to get their own library cards (talk about feeling important) and could check out as many books as they could carry. And they had to rob their own piggy banks to pay their own fines if the books were late so I was the one who usually proved to be the worst offender in this regard.
3) We also made summer pilgrimages to visit Daddy in his office every three weeks or so and went out to lunch with him. The Husband worked downtown and we usually ate at the neighboring Burger King but everything was more exotic and fun because it was in the "city."
4) Vacation Bible School. I had one friend whose children attended three different Vacation Bible Schools each summer: Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian. That way she knew that the material and crafts would all be different, and her children would not be bored. I always volunteered to work in our home church VBS, but I soon learned that coordinating the refreshments for the various classes was a whole lot easier for me than teaching. And since I was employed full-time in a school, I didn't feel too bad about sidestepping the duties in the classroom. I can unashamedly tell you that VBS was a lifesaver for me for many years! And do NOT feel pressured to teach or serve if this is not for you. God will let you give back in other ways!
5) Back yard camp-out and nightime flashlight walks. We first introduced camping to our children by pitching the tent in the backyard. We also made it a ritual to take nightime walks around the neighborhood with flashlights whenever we had friends spend the night (even if we slept inside). There is something magical that happens when you turn on a flashlight at night, for the ordinary can become the spectacular. I bought my flashlights and batteries at the Dollar Store so that everyone could have their own to tote around.
6) Hire a "Mother's Helper." This is a younger girl who will come over and play with your children while you are at home; she will generally occupy your children while you are scurrying around trying to get things done. The Mother's Helper is a girl who is too young to babysit on her own for four children, but is an individual who will do well with some adult supervision. The beauty of this arrangement is that these girls do not charge as much as an older babysitter does. The blessing for us was that our "Mother's Helper" started with us when she was in the seventh grade; she stayed with us as a babysitter and then became a housesitter when she was in college. She even ended up accompanying us on family vacations to Florida which proved to be the gift of gifts for me. In Florida we gave her two afternoons and two evenings off, but the rest of the time she was there to entertain the children (who loved her) and to make life easier for everyone. Looking back, I would say that hiring a Mother's Helper was one of the best things I ever did, hands down!
7) Make time for yourself. Even if you can only carve 2-3 hours out per week, it is a necessity. I think I would have lost my mind otherwise. I usually did not have a "Mother's Day Out" program in the summer, so time away became a rare, but necessary commodity. Fortunately, my husband understood my need for the company of other adults, and he was usually willing to accommodate me in this regard, by allowing me to hire a babysitter; but if this does not work for you, then trade off with a friend. You take hers and then she will take yours! Then it's a win-win!
8) Find a prayer partner. I had a friend that I could call at anytime and tell her to pray. She did not need the details; she was willing to hit her knees on my behalf, and I would do the same for her. This proved to be an important investment in my spiritual growth. I cannot tell you the times that I just needed to know that she was praying for me. It brought me comfort and encouragement on the most difficult of days, and trust me, there were many.
9) Cut yourself some slack EVERY SINGLE DAY. Do not make the mistake of setting impossible goals. A clean house, happy children and a productive mother are not synonymous. Remember in post number one that Supermom has been put to death. Look at yourself in the mirror every day and say, "I think I can, I know I can...I can get through THIS day!" I cannot tell you how many times I said to myself, "His Grace is sufficient for ME!"
9) Know that God is faithful. I look back and can see His hand everywhere, but at the time I wondered if I would ever have a life that did not comprise of saying "No No, NO," endlessly or attempting to discipline or teach children when they absolutely did not want to be taught. I seriously contemplated running away numerous times, but something always held me back. Perhaps it was a future that seemed so far off, but one that has finally arrived. And it will come for you, I promise! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! I convinced that there will be a special banquet room for mothers in heaven! I will see you there!