Inexpensive, stiff-bristled paint brushes--in a variety of widths--are a great addition to the cleaning tote. Use them to dust the tops of books, whisk dirt from baseboards and corners, clean dust from blinds, and remove crumbs from upholstery.
Opinion time. Today's parents are earnest and concerned and want the best for their children. Art lessons, Kumon math, gymnastics and Kinder-musik compete for our children's time. Soccer and Little League demand total family loyalty and the sacrifice of every dinner hour for a three-month season.
Each summer, there's golf camp and computer camp and swimming lessons and Cub Scout Day Camp (shudder, shudder, twitch, twitch, says the old den mother)--and Mom's in the van for every single one. Whatever happened to that staple directive of mothers everywhere, "Go out and play!"? Will this summer give your children time to be a kid?
It's curious, what we do. We over-schedule our children from age 2 to early adolescence. Then they dive into the relative aimlessness of the peer group at age 13 without the internal resources necessary to keep them out of mischief. Why? Because they've experienced Parent-As-Social-Director and have never learned to amuse and engage themselves.
Enough already! This year, consider giving your school-aged children the ultimate Status Kid gift: free time.
Time to dream, time to grow, time to stretch out on the hammock and read a novel from cover to cover. Time to build elaborate fantasy worlds in the backyard sand pile. Time to squabble with siblings and time to resolve the issue without Mom's intervention.
Time to learn: to knit, to cook, to sew. Time to build model rockets. Time to open a lemonade stand on the corner. Time to mow a few neighborhood lawns for money, and time to dawdle at the mall in the spending of it. Time to hold a mega-Monopoly tournament and decide the ruler of the world.
Ignore the veiled sneers of the Pool Mommies: "What? You don't have little Suzy enrolled in Compu-Learn for Tots? Don't you worry that she'll fall behind the other 3-year-olds and never be able to get into a good pre-school?"
In carving out time for play, you give your children the most valuable skill of all: the ability to nourish and sustain themselves.
Long after they've forgotten the Comp-U-Tot drills on "this is the SEE-prompt!", they'll know how to search within themselves for resources, for interests, and for entertainment.
This is how you create strong, independent, resourceful adults with a true zest for living.
Your teens? Do it the other way, and keep them busy. Summer jobs may be hard to find for younger teens, but volunteer work gives young people of any age the invaluable gift of learning to contribute.
Let them help at the Food Bank, in local libraries, and summer day camps. Herd them, bleating and moaning, to your area's Habitat for Humanity house and put a hammer in their hands.
Hire them to paint the house, shampoo the carpets, detail the car. Ignore their complaints.
Give your teens the gift of usefulness and the joy of productive work. The experience of being a young adult taking a first few steps into an adult world is far, far more valuable than another summer lolling around the pool, gawking at swimsuit-clad peers. They'll thank you for it, too, in 25 years or so!
Summer is a special time for mothers, too. Snuggling small wet bodies in sun-warmed towels. Bringing late-night snacks--and a welcome reminder of home and safety--to first-time back-yard tent campers. Teaching a child to cook Grandmother's Banana Pudding, and sharing stories of your own childhood as you stir.
Reading the whole of "Harriet the Spy" to a wide-eyed 8-year-old. Shopping for a 13-year-old daughter's first "junior" bathing suit and not wincing at how womanly she suddenly looks. Supporting (and surviving) a 16-year-old's first job search.
Summer is not just for kids! Reach for that sweetness, Mom. Make time for it, between working and shopping and following the ant trails and paying the power bills.
It is the stuff that life is made of, after all!