I don't know what it is - the heat? The lack of structured schedule? The feeling that we're supposed to be on vacation? Every summer I get into this "I don't want to cook anymore" mood. The problem is that my family does not get into an "I don't want to eat anymore" mood to match. As I was planning my grocery shopping this morning, I was trying to decide whether or not I could get the fam to go along with sandwiches and fruit every night when the idea hit: this summer, the younger kids are going to learn to cook! I mean - I would be a delinquent mother if I sent them out into the world without this skill, right?!
I presented the idea to Isaac, Garrett, and Joseph, and they were totally jazzed. Score. They looked through one of my cookbooks and each picked two meals to prepare this coming week. Then, I took them with me grocery shopping. Miraculously, we didn't end up with too many "extras" in the basket, and everyone came home happy. Hooray!
Tonight, Garrett served us BLT's with grapes and corn. (Hmmm... sandwiches and fruit. Wonder where he got that idea for a summer dinner....) He did a great job! Everyone loved it, and I think he was pretty proud of himself, too.
The second sanity saver was born of desperation a few years ago, and has been revisited every year since. Remember when I talked about how the boys used to fight a lot here? We were having a rough evening when my husband told the kids that if they could get along for the rest of the evening, they would earn "beach bucks" to spend on vacation. (Normally - I am philosophically opposed to bribing my children to "be good." I want them to behave because it is the right thing to do, not because they are going to be getting something for it. However, I do make an exception for beach bucks once a year! I like to tell myself that we would have spent money on them on vacation anyway, and now we are having them earn it. Bribery or not - I'll let you decide. It works!)
Each year, for a few weeks before we go on vacation, the kids can earn (and lose) beach bucks. If you are caught doing something particularly kind or helpful, you get beach bucks. Taking care of all your responsibilities? Beach bucks! Punch your brother? You guessed it - he gets some of your beach bucks. We keep track of it all on paper, and then on the first day of vacation, we convert to spending dollars.
Here's how we do it: Greg and I decide how much we are willing to give to the kids for spending money. I think last year was $200 total for all the kids combined. We divide that amount by the total amount of beach bucks earned to find out how much each is worth, then multiply each child's total by that number. (For example - if the kids earned a total of 1000 Beach Bucks all together, they would each be worth 20 cents real money.) The great thing about this system is that it allows you to really up the ante on the kids when you need to without costing yourself a bundle. One night, I was particularly tired, and told the kids that anyone that could get themselves ready and in bed in 5 minutes and stay there would earn 50 beach bucks. 50! I had some very happy kids in bed 5 minutes later! The older kids are onto that little trick now, but still go along with it. It's spending money they don't have to pull out of their earnings from their jobs.
So there you have it- my two best tips for keeping everyone fed and happy during the summer.