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Summer Survival: Having Fun and Staying Sane

Christine Pafumi
Feb. 28, 2012

One mom shares her secrets for staying sane on summer break as part of the Care.com Interview Series

With four kids under the age of seven, Stacey Conner says there's no such thing as planning for summer break -- you just have to brace for it. The Is There Any Mommy Out There? blogger tells us how she makes the most of those two months with picnics, theme camps, hunting fairies and gnomes, while taking time to slow down and enjoy the downtime.

Tell us about your family. How many kids do you have? What are their ages? What are their personalities like?

I have four children. My daughter Saige and my son Garrett are both six. Quinn is four and Nate is two. Saige is fiery and dramatic, but very kind. Garrett is stubborn and sensitive and a bit of a loner. Quinn is our all-American. He's never met someone who isn't a friend and he has a quick answer for everything. Nate's the baby.

What were your childhood summers like? Did you go to camp? Tell us about it.

I did go to camp: Camp Friendship in Palmyra, Virginia. I remember skipping photography to giggle by the lake with my girlfriends and nearly drowning when I jumped out of a canoe because there was a spider in it. I don't know if I would say that I loved camp, but it definitely gave me a sense of independence and helped me learn to make friends.

How early do you start planning for summer?

My kids are pretty young, so we don't plan for summer so much as brace for summer. But, I definitely watch all the registrations as they open in February and try to get some activities set.

How does your family schedule change in the summer?

We slow down. No more super-stressed mom yelling to get your boots on every morning. We are far less scheduled and much more likely to pack a picnic and head for the park.

What are some of the challenges you face when school's out for summer?

Not selling my children to the highest bidder. Does that count? Filling the whole day is tough, no doubt about it. I rely on school for our morning activity most of the year. But the gentler weather helps.

What are some of your favorite summer activities?

We have a very short summer season in Spokane, so I make the most of it. There are a lot of beautiful lakes in this area and we try to visit as many beaches as we can. We rent a lake cabin with several other families in August. The kids also love the splash pads at the local playgrounds.

I love to walk and we have a game that we play in the summer. We take long walks and hunt for fairies and gnomes. Anything can be a clue, pretty string hanging from a tree, funny gnarls or windows in the bark, mushrooms, paint on the grass. I've even hidden fairy things for them to find. I know, I'm a total geek.

I don't necessarily think kids need a lot of organized activities in the summer, but we always do swimming lessons and one or two weeks of day camp. There are some fabulous week-long day camps with themes, so I let them pick which week they like.

We adore the arboretum in the summer. It's a huge open park with lots of hiding places and a stream with tadpoles. Tons of fun. Lots of good fairy clues there too.

How do you choose your summer activities? How do you find new ones?

Mostly word of mouth. I like to choose activities that other parents have loved. We hear about a lot of things through our preschool programs.

What are some rainy day summer activities you do with your kids?

Oh, now you got me. I'm much better when we can go outside. Crafts and I do not get along, but we do love simple games like Uno and puzzles.

Do you send your kids to camp?

I do. So far, we've only done week-long day camps through their preschool. Safety is important to me and a fun, varied program with lots of outside time. Our preschool offers a week-long Spanish camp every summer and I really love that one for the exposure to language.

Do you have goals for your kids for the summer?

Not killing them. Trying not to yell at them. Oh, you mean goals for the kids. Not really, honestly. We spend a ton of time outside because I like it, but they watch TV too. Our schedule is pretty crazy from September to June, so summer is simply downtime for us.

From marrying her high school sweetheart and becoming a big time lawyer in D.C. to living on a tropical island with her prince, Stacey Conner, who blogs at Is There Any Mommy Out There?, believes in fairy tales. Now living along the border of Idaho, Conner writes about her happily-ever-after adventures with her husband, adopted daughter and three boys. You can find Stacey on Twitter and Facebook.

Get more tips and ideas for summer activities in the Care.com Interview Series: Summer Survival »

Photo used with permission from Stacey Conner.

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