Dog Days Of Summer - The Art of Doing Not a Whole Heck of a Lot

It's getting towards the end of July and the reason I know this is because the TV and stores are now bombarding us with back-to-school shopping ads. Oh and I was in Costco the other day feeling pressured to buy a thick, furry rain coat for my child because if I don't get it now they will no longer carry them when I actually need it - in about 6 more months. (I didn't buy one.) I know when I go there in a few more weeks (in Aug) I'll be able to pick out my child's Halloween costume if I so desire and a week or so after that I'll be able to buy my fake Christmas tree with all the trimmings. 

Can we just be done with speeding through life already?  

I know I'm fighting a loosing battle because that will never change, as annoying as it is. But for now while I am a stay-at-home-mom creating a little, tiny bubble around my little, tiny family we can ignore all of the pressures of society - as much as possible anyway. As my kids grow older and we are out in the world more (like kindergarten), I am really noticing this push to do everything, be involved with everything and learn everything as young as possible so you have several years to hone your talent before you start making your parents millions of dollars. OK, slight exaggeration, or is it?  All you have to do is take one class with your child to witness first hand the parents who are trying to get their child on track to excel in that particular thing whether the child wants to or not. 

As a kid I had a good friend who literally did everything. She had no down time whatsoever because her time was filled with several commitments a week and she was never, ever available to do the typical childhood things on the weekends due to these commitments even though she desperately wanted to be a regular kid. She couldn't go to sleepovers because her weekends started very early in the morning with various practices, competitions and recitals and for this same reason she couldn't go to birthday parties in general, or any playdates for that matter. However, when I was a kid we didn't call them "playdates."  We just called it "playing outside with the neighborhood kids." 

Now that I'm a mom I'm very careful not to schedule too many things at once, even fun things they want to do like dance classes and swimming lessons. First of all it's expensive. But when you have more than one child doing more than one class a week you can see how your days and weeks get away from you and they no longer belong to you - they belong to the schedule. 

It's important to know your child's personality type to see if this is a good thing or a bad thing - for them. Notice I didn't say to pay attention to your own personality type. Many times we are very different from our children even though we may not want to admit it or "deal with it." Just because a parent likes to be super busy and on the go with several things scheduled at all times, this doesn't mean our child thrives in this situation and vice versa. Just notice your child's daily/weekly tantrum level to see if this is the case. (Even older kids have tantrums in their own ways.) Most tantrums are thrown by children who are overwhelmed, over tired, over scheduled and over stimulated with no room for transition time between activities. If you find yourself running from activity to activity, eating restaurant meals in the car or on-the-go, your kids are doing homework in the car or prepping for the next class and your only "down time" is the drive to the next function (whew that makes me tired just typing it), you are very likely over doing it and setting yourselves up for failure. Kids need down time to discover who they are are, what they like and what they are capable of doing on their own. 

When I was a kid 30+ years ago, our summer days looked a lot like this:


  • Wake up lazy
  • Have breakfast
  • Pack a picnic lunch (my mom put in a lot of time packing awesome, healthy summer picnic lunches)
  • Head to the beach or the park until dusk
  • Get an ice cream at Thrifty's (back then it was only 25 cents a scoop)
  • Fall asleep the second our heads hit the pillow
  • Repeat the next day


That was basically it. 

If we went to the beach we'd take boogie boards and sand toys, beach chairs and an umbrella.  If we went to the park we took bikes or roller skates/skate boards, and maybe a board game or a deck of cards. We never, ever bought food at a snack shack because my mom had that covered. She even made extra sandwiches to last us throughout the several hour beach day. That didn't keep us from asking for snack shack food of course, but we never spent money we didn't have. 

The only time we'd ever get anything at a beach snack shack was when my grandparents lived walking distance from the pier down in San Clemente. To this day San Clemente is my very favorite beach of all time - even after living on Kauai. I have so many great memories of San Cle. When I was a kid the snack shack down at the pier had the best cheese burgers around. Kind of like In-N-Out Burger if you are familiar with them and their fries were great too. So this was the only time we splurged at a beach snack shack. 

How can you do nothing when there are chores to do?

As a mom, my goal is to fine tune my house keeping so that I'm not bogged down the entire weekend with piles and piles of laundry and dishes. The following has been a good system for me so far, but stick with me til the end because it might sound crazy at first if you have been accustomed to the weekend filled with hours of laundry:

Every morning I put in 1 load of laundry. We have a laundry sorter in the garage next to our washer and dryer so I gather up the clothes in everyone's rooms each day to take them out to the main sorter. At this point it's usually just a few items since I'm doing this every day. When that 1 load is finished washing I put it in the dryer or I hang it on the line (depending on the time of year) and this is the biggie: I do not start another load of wash. However, I do make a mental note of which load I'll be doing the next day. When that load is done drying I take it in and fold it right away and then I put everything away. Because I have only 1 load to do this takes very little time and effort and I'm almost 100% successful at it each day because it's one complete load of laundry from start to finish.

I do the same thing for the dishes however, it varies slightly. We usually run the load of dishes throughout the night. If time permits my husband empties the dishwasher in the morning before work and I fill it throughout the day. I cook at home and make homemade meals for dinner each night so we always have a ton of pots and pans to wash. In a perfect world, the drying rack gets put away as well as all pots and pans that are drying on the stove. This doesn't always happen, ok it rarely happens, but that is the goal if I want a clean kitchen. 

A preschool teacher we had made this great suggestion that I have found to be useful: wipe down all bathroom counters each day with a paper towel and spray cleaner, very quickly swish out and wipe down the toilets with cleaner (everyday!) and get rid of all bathroom clutter (ie; hang towels, put things back where they belong, etc.) Depending on how many bathrooms you have, you could get this daily task down to about 15/20 minutes or less a day. Because you are wiping everything down everyday it doesn't get the chance to gather any gross bathroom funky build up that takes a lot longer to scrub. 

If you are super organized (I'm not) you could accomplish this with your kitchen/stove top and counters every day too. My kitchen has become a catch all because we don't have a proper office so this is harder for us - but we're working on it.

These are just a few tips I try to do daily to minimize and eventually eliminate the long weekend cleaning days. 

If you only do one of these things every day I suggest doing the laundry thing. 

It makes a huge difference!  Especially when you have multiple people living in your house. Resist the urge to do more than one load a day if possible (I know it's hard because that is not how we are trained to do things) because when you do many loads at once, chances are you will not be able to successfully wash, dry, fold and put away multiple loads of laundry - and seeing it to the very end (clothes in closets and drawers!) is really the daily goal. When I get backed up from life getting in the way it only takes about a week to get back on track where the majority of our laundry is clean and in drawers or hung up. There are even some days were I'm actually looking for something to wash for that days load if you can believe that. That is when we do bigger things like sheets and stuff. 

I remember seeing an episode of Oprah were she said she has fresh, clean (and ironed!) sheets on her bed daily!  I don't know about you but I was kind of shocked when I heard this as were most audience members because they panned out across the audience to wide eyes and all mouths agape. She even looked kind of surprised (and sheepish) at the audience's reaction to see that most people do not change their sheets daily, let alone iron them. Someone in the audience made a reference to her having housekeeping help and even she agreed and said, yes, that makes a big difference. That must be so nice to have someone cleaning your house regularly!  

Ahhhhh....just give me a second to dream.... 

Imagine the free time you'd have?!  

Well, do my laundry trick and I promise if you keep it up all week and stick to the 1 load a day rule until you get a firm handle on it you'll feel a bit of freedom from the piles and piles of weekend laundry. This of course only really works if you don't have to go to the laundry mat, or share a common laundry room in a complex of some sort. Been there done that and I feel for you in that situation with a family, I really do. 

As far as not doing much during the summer because I kind of digressed a bit there, if you can get a handle on the household chores you have more free time to do not a whole heck of a lot. I don't mean spend the day watching TV, playing on the computer or playing any type of electronic device for hours on end. I mean spending time outdoors doing basically nothing. When I say "nothing" I mean where your child's day is not scheduled out for them with a class or anything structured and they get to make their own fun using their own brain, their own creativity with maybe a few things provided like a bike at the park or a ball, sand toys at the beach or something like that. But no cheating with electronics!! Hopefully you get exactly what I'm getting at here.

Here is a list of what nothing looks like for us:


  • Going to the park, setting out a blanket, taking a lunch and just letting the kids play and explore. 
  • Going for a nature walk in the neighborhood and discover the world around you.
  • Taking a lazy stroll or slow bike ride/scooter ride through the park, beach trail or neighborhood.
  • Lie on the grass and look at shapes in the clouds.
  • Go to the library and discover something new, attend a FREE toddler/preschooler story time or get involved in a reading club.
  • Turn on the sprinklers in the back yard, fill up the water table, play in the sandbox and have a picnic outside.
  • Garden, dig in the dirt, plant something.
  • Look into FREE things through your local parks and rec like public wadding pools for little ones and concerts in the park in the evenings and different events for Holidays like the 4th of July or Easter Egg Hunts, etc.
  • Have a backyard family camp out.
  • Have a night time family movie party (the kids pick the movie) and get a pizza or make something fun to eat and put out a blanket and let the kids eat in the living room picnic style while watching the movie. This will be a huge, fun treat if your kids never get to eat in front of the TV. (That is a good thing btw!)
  • Reading!
  • Painting with watercolors
  • Arts and crafts
  • Exploring the wild outdoors
  • Most importantly - slow down.

Have fun discovering what your family likes to do that is not a structured, scheduled, indoor event. Those have their time and place in our lives too but they should be the exception, not the daily agenda. We have a rule in our house now with extracurricular classes scheduled through parks & rec (especially since we have baby #3 on the way): Each child gets to take one class at a time and we take a break in between sessions. The classes we usually take are once a week for about an hour and at this age we have been able to combo some classes like tumbling or take them the same time at the same location but different teachers like swimming lessons, or back-to-back on the same day with the same teachers like soccer. (I had a very strict rule that there was to be no electronic devices used during the soccer class while the other sibling had class. Their options were to actually watch their sibling play and encourage them while doing so, or find their own fun running around looking for bugs and leaves and chasing birds at the park. Sometimes we took supplies to color or draw. It was never an issue. Mom stuck to the no electronic device rule too because as you know, you teach by example as opposed to just using words without backing them up with an example.)  

This summer is a bit different since our daughter is taking a kids Science and Nature Summer Camp at the Nature Center and these summer camps run for a week at a time from 9-noon. So far we've taken two different ones and have one more week on the schedule. So for now she is the only one who is taking a scheduled class because the ones for preschoolers filled up too quickly and we didn't book them in time. We've learned our lesson for next year! However, my little guy is doing plenty of fun things because we have a pass to our local water park and usually go several times a week for a few hours or so.

If you need any more ideas of things to do in the summer I wrote a Summer Bucket List a few years ago. Some stuff no longer exists like the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, but you can fill in your own activity in that one. 


Here are some lazy family pics of us doing "nothing." 


Dog Days Of Summer - The Art of Doing Not a Whole Heck of a Lot
Learning to surf from daddy at Doheny Beach, California
Dog Days Of Summer - The Art of Doing Not a Whole Heck of a Lot
Exploring the stream at the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach, California
Dog Days Of Summer - The Art of Doing Not a Whole Heck of a Lot
Exploring the trails at the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach, California 
Dog Days Of Summer - The Art of Doing Not a Whole Heck of a Lot
Splashing in the wadding pool at a local park.
Dog Days Of Summer - The Art of Doing Not a Whole Heck of a Lot
Making up their own games with their own rules.
Dog Days Of Summer - The Art of Doing Not a Whole Heck of a Lot
Taking a scooter & bike riding detour to throw sticks and leaves in the stream at a local park.
Dog Days Of Summer - The Art of Doing Not a Whole Heck of a Lot
Exploring a local water fountain after having lunch out.
Dog Days Of Summer - The Art of Doing Not a Whole Heck of a Lot
Mom's Night Out! Mama's perfect version of doing nothing!  (This one is a solo act btw!!) 

MyTalesFromTheCrib - Coco Cana
My favorite beach of all time: San Clemente, California




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