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Keeping Your Sanity in the Summer

Melissa Roja Lawlor
Feb. 28, 2012

Parenting By Dummies blogger Amanda Rodriguez shares how she survives summer as part of the Care.com Interview Series

For Amanda Rodriguez, who blogs over at Parenting By Dummies, summer can be a "scary, scary time." After all, having nearly three months at home with three energetic "and possibly completely insane Dudes," as she calls them, might test the limits of the sanest people out there. Here, Amanda opens up about the secret to a happy summer (hint: water is involved), getting sunscreen on all the kids (including the one you married!), and surviving the general chaos of summer with The Dudes (ages 4, 7, and 10) and their psychotic puppy.

How early do you start planning for summer?

Um, like a week before? Maybe two if I'm feeling happy. I know, I know it would be way less frightening if I did a little preemptive planning, but I'm sort of committed to living the life of a professional procrastinator who enjoys avoidance and denial techniques. Plus, they have swimming EVERY SINGLE DAY in the summer, so it's hard to plan other organized activities around our 2 hours a day at the pool.

How does your family schedule change in the summer?

We do try to go on a vacation every summer. I like to travel. It's less exciting and more expensive with kids, but the fact that it breaks up the monotony generally makes up for the fact that it's also breaking the bank a little! We also spend a lot of time at my parents' house. They have a wonderful swimming pool and live in the middle of a forest; plenty for three Dudes to get into there and I don't have to be responsible for them thanks to their doting Mimi and Papa!

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

Keeping my sanity. Mostly just that. I like to get them out to do things at least a few times a week that doesn't include swimming (we also live on a lake so they spend a lot of their summer soaking wet). But I struggle to find things that are free or low cost since we also live in a rural-type area.

What are some of your go-to summer activities?

Swimming and um, swimming. Followed by additional swimming. The Dudes joined the swim team two summers ago and they love it. It's community-based so they get to see their school pals every day and they also get exercise in. I guess I can see how that might get old!

What are some great free (or semi-free) activities to do with your kids during the summer?

Fortunately, we live within a reasonable distance to Washington D.C. and can pick a few days per month to enjoy the Smithsonian and other attractions in the city, most of which are free!

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

Art. And we also like video games. The entire family gets in on them and we have some pretty intense dance-offs and sing-offs up in here. It's pretty awesome.

Do you hire summer childcare? How do you find the help you need?

We do have a sitter that comes to the house a couple of days per week while I work from home. We actually used Care.com to find her.

Do you have goals for your kids for the summer?

They are each required to complete a set number of books.

What are some tips you can give our readers about how to travel with kids?

Snacks, DVD, and more snacks? That's what works for us. We also pack a barf bag for our little car puker and make plenty of bathroom stops for our little active bladder. Seriously though, we make such a big deal out of our family road trips that The Dudes have always done remarkably well with them. Plus we leave in the dead of night so they can't help but to sleep for most of it. Phew!

Do you have any summer advice for our readers?

Put sunscreen on your kids, and that includes the one you married! The funniest summer memory we have as a family is from when we went to Ocean City, MD and my husband attempted to apply his own sunscreen to his back. He got a massive sunburn shaped like hands and fingers all over his back! I felt sorry for him but I laughed. Hard. Because he looked ridiculous covered in hand prints.

What is your best tip for parents on making the most of summer break?

Best summer tip: relax! We love the free time The Dudes have to just be kids in the summer. During the school year, especially for my older son, everything about his day is so scheduled that he doesn't get much down time. We like to ensure he has that in the summer. Because he needs it, and honestly, so do I.

Amanda Rodriguez, or "Dumb Mom" as she calls herself, is the mom behind the popular humor and parenting blog Parenting by Dummies. Outsmarted by her children daily, she attempts to navigate motherhood, childhood, and everything in between; she enjoys sharing her stories of failure and success in a humorous, heartfelt, and honest way. She reluctantly resides in Maryland with her husband and three small Dudes where she laments leaving the California sunshine on a daily basis. You can also find Amanda and Parenting by Dummies 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 Amanda Rodriguez.

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