Hey Friends ~

Well, he made it! My firstborn is now a high school graduate. Woo Hoo!

And you know what that means? Summer will be here before we know it!

My hope is that Summer 2012 will be filled with much fun, adventure, laughter, creativity, and amazing family times!

I’ll be honest…for many years, summer felt random, chaotic and like I was always 1 day behind.

I struggled without having a plan, the kids bickered with each other, I was discouraged, and at the end of summer I would think, “What in the world was that?”.

I was convinced there must be a better way to create a season full of joy and family fun! I desired to fully enjoy summer with my kids!

Thankfully, those defeated days of summer are gone! Today I’ll share some of what I’ve learned, and my personal tips on creating the best summer ever for you and your family!

1. Start with the end in mind.

Towards the beginning of each summer vacation (typically in the month of May ~ like right now!), I carve out time to sit down and begin a summer plan.

Sometimes I go away by myself on a “summer planning” overnight, but this year I’m taking a whole day while the kids are at school. Whatever works best ~ but I’ve found having some concentrated planning time is key.

I take an extra calendar and cut & paste together June, July, and August. I fill in the days of any birthdays, holidays, pre-planned activities, etc. This helps me to look at the summer as a whole.

2. Pray

I pray over our summer. I ask God to fill our days with His plans, His blessings, His opportunities, His joy & peace, etc… I ask Him to lead and guide me as a mom, and for our family to enjoy His gift of rest and refreshment (although summer isn’t too restful with 4 kids…but that’s another post ~ smile). I commit our summer to Him.

3. Intentional Planning

I spend time reflecting on the following questions…

* What do I want to have accomplished before the kids go back to school? (i.e. trips, home projects, etc..)

* What are 3 Character qualities I want to work on with the kids? What are corresponding Scripture verses to go along with the character traits?

(Last summer we worked on loving kindness in June, generosity in July, and peace in August)

* Are there activities I want to make sure we do (i.e. go to the beach, library, visit grandma, etc..)

* Are there families I want to make sure we invite over for Sundae Night or for supper?

* What could John and I do over the summer to strengthen our marriage? (i.e planning a “mini moon”).

* Is there something I could attend to learn and grow? (i.e. this year I’ll be at Carol Kent’s Speak Up Conference – woo hoo!)

And then, with pencil and/or post-it notes, I take the ideas I’ve come up with, and begin to add them to our summer calendar. It’s fun to watch as the summer begins to take shape!

4. Invite the family to participate.

After I’ve come up with some things I think would be helpful (I’ve learned my girls will never pick the museum, and the boys will skip over the library!), I ask for the family to participate.

For example, last spring, I gave an index card to each family member. On one side I asked them to write down something they really want to do during summer (something realistic and inexpensive ~ “go to Disney World” is not allowed!). On the other side, I asked them to think of a family they’d like to invite over.

We then spent time sharing our ideas with each other (common answers were “the beach”, “the boat”, “swimming”). I took their ideas and added it to our summer calendar. This way, at the end of August, each one of us has been able to participate in activities that are significant and meaningful to us.

I also added the ideas to our “Family Fun Box”. This way, we always have things to do if we have a free afternoon and/or evening.

I’ve learned it’s helpful to know what everyone is thinking as soon as possible. John said he’d really like to spend time out on Lake Michigan with the boat. Knowing this at the beginning of summer, I can make sure we keep weekends free to do just that (especially after baseball season is over).

5. Implement the Plan

Once I have more of a sense of what we’d all like to accomplish this summer, I begin to implement the plan.

For us, I try to have 1 day a week that we have a big activity (last year we had “Friday Field Trips”). My son Benj likes to “be home”, so it’s helpful if he knows on Friday we’ll head out for fun, and the other days he can chill around the house.

I can also start making phone calls for play dates, and having family’s over for fun! By looking ahead, it allows for plenty of planning time for special occassions ~ including Father’s Day, Jake’s 18th birthday, our 12 year Anniversary, 4th of July, Benj’s birthday, my Mom’s birthday, and more! (Lots to celebrate ~ Woo Hoo!!)

6. Be flexible

One summer I came down with a horrible ear infection at the end of July. Most of August I was miserable. Our “Friday Field Trips” went out the window. A good day was a day I could get up and move around pain free.

But you know what…we still had a wonderful summer. The key was being flexible and finding the joy in every day ~ even if our plan was thrown out the window. Knowing that I had committed the summer to God, I could rest in His plan (although it looked much different than I was thinking). God knows what He is doing!!

If you have ever desired more structure to your summer days, you may want to try my Summer Planning Tips.

I know some mom’s would prefer to “wing it” and enjoy the lazy days of summer ~ and that’s ok too!! However you decide to spend your summer, just be sure to live each moment to the full (even if that’s enjoying a quiet moment in a lounge chair reading a book)!

What about for you?? What makes your summer enjoyable, memorable, and fun?? What are your hopes for Summer 2012? I’d love to hear from you!!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! May your day be filled with much laughter and joy!!!

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