Summer Breeze

Don’t you just love it when one of your favorite songs comes on the radio, especially a song that you haven’t heard in a while? Yet even though it’s been a while, you still remember some if not all of the lyrics, and there are distinct memories attached to the song. That’s what happened to me as I was driving home recently when “Summer Breeze” by Seals & Crofts started playing on the radio… “Summer breeze makes me feel fine, blowin’ through the jasmine in my mind.” As I was happily singing along, warm memories from my youth started replaying in my mind like a movie. For me this sort of thing happens with many classic songs and the theme that runs through them are memories of home and get togethers with family or friends.

It’s interesting that the memories attached to those songs are really simple ones: having a family BBQ in the backyard or going to visit with friends. They weren’t special occasions and did not require elaborate planning. That’s not to say that going to Disney didn’t create spectacular memories, but big trips were usually few and far between. The most plentiful memories were those that simply involved spending time with people we loved.

Reflecting on those memories makes me pause to consider how I spend my time today, and I hope it does the same for you. We live in a fast-paced society, and it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of our schedules. Yet there’s something inside of all of us that longs for a slower pace and being able to spend more time with others. It is in these quiet moments when we scroll through the images of those closest to us and certain feelings and emotions surface. This brings to mind the thought that perhaps our memories are not only fond remembrances of the past but are also gentle reminders of what the future could be.

Three years ago on July 1, 2013, Rolling Stone magazine rated “Summer Breeze” the 13th “Best Summer Song of All Time”. While the song is a classic, may be the reason why it has remained so popular over the years is that it evokes memories of a simpler life with those we love:

Sweet days of summer, the jasmine’s in bloom.

July is dressed up and playing her tune.

And I come home from a hard day’s work

and you’re waiting there not a care in the world.

See the smile a-waitin’ in the kitchen, food cookin’ and the plates for two.

Feel the arms that reach out to hold me in the evening when the day is through.

While it may be idealistic to think that life can be that simple, perhaps there are things we can do, minor adjustments we can make, that will enable us to re-establish or enhance our connections with others. For some may be that means taking every thought captive so that there is time to be deliberate about choices. For others it may mean redefining priorities, asking the question, “Is this still a priority?” Wherever you find yourself, the good news is that making memories does not really require a grand gesture to show how much we care for the other person, but it does require two uncompromising elements: you and your time. So, as you begin clearing your calendar, think about the invitations or opportunities you have passed over. Consider going to lunch with that friend you keep putting off because you’re too busy, invite your neighbor over for a backyard BBQ, or actually go on that date night you and your wife keep talking about. Whatever it is you choose to do, the important thing is to spend time with a loved one because it is during those moments when warm and lasting memories are made.

Tips for Parents: Spring Break Edition

If the phrase “spring break” enlists more panic stricken thoughts of how to afford a Florida beach vacation for the whole family or last minute day camp ideas than thoughts of an actual break, then you’re in good company. For many parents this time, once looked forward to for months, becomes a chore. Lots of families opt for a big vacation, while others may be more comfortable staying at home. Depending on what suits your family best, either option can be a good one. So…

If you’re planning the big vacation:

  • Think realistically about what your child likes/doesn’t like and age appropriateness of activities. Just because he loves watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on TV, doesn’t mean he won’t have a complete and total meltdown at the sight of a real-life Mickey. Also, if you’re planning a trip to Colorado with your 3 year-old, maybe don’t expect to be able to go on that 10 mile hike you and your spouse did for your wedding anniversary that one year. One last thing in this point: save the innocent fellow passengers on an airplane as much pain as possible if you plan to take the aforementioned toddler on a ten-hour plane ride. Bring an iPad (don’t forget the charger), coloring books, his favorite lovie, travel games, and literally anything else you can possibly fit into a carry-on in order to keep him (and you) happy.
  • Even though Spring Break is a time to step out of the same ‘ole routine, don’t take that idea too far. Kids still need rest time! They can’t be expected to go, go, go all day and then make it through dinner without either conking out right there at the table or having one of those famous meltdowns. Bottom line- make time for nap time.
  • Allow for exploration! Especially if you’re kids are older and assuming you’re traveling to a safe destination, there’s no reason to hover over them every second. No, I’m not suggesting you should let your adolescent go into town for the night by themselves or even with a friend or sibling. But letting them walk down the beach to find some cool shells or allowing them to stand in line for a rollercoaster while you sit in the shade isn’t a bad thing and inherently builds confidence by fostering their independence.

If you’re planning to stay home:

  • Don’t panic if you don’t have every second of every day jam packed with fun activities. For most kids who are already over-booked with school and karate and swimming and baseball during a non-break day, sleeping in, staying in your PJs, having a movie marathon, and ordering pizza can be a blast.
  • Take a day trip! With places like Kemah and Galveston right down the road, there’s no reason why you can’t “go on vacation”. Get a few day passes to Schlitterbahn or check out Pleasure Pier—it won’t break the bank and your kiddos won’t go stir crazy after PJs and pizza day gets boring.
  • You don’t have to get out of the city to break out of that same ‘ole routine. If your go-to field trip with the kids is to the neighborhood park, try a different park… it’s that simple! Take them and some of their friends to the IMAX at the planetarium, let them have ice cream before bedtime (if you can handle that after a day in the museum district)—anything to mix it up a bit and make it special for them.

Whether you’re traveling to the happiest place on earth or staying at home this Spring Break, just remember this: make memories! Thinking back on some of my family vacations, I don’t remember the hotel rooms, the restaurants, or all of the tours we took. What I remember is laughing until I nearly peed my pants because of some lame inside joke my mom and I came up with while I was keeping her awake in the hotel room, my sister laughing so hard that milk came out of her nose in the middle of the fancy restaurant, and trying not to chuckle at all the naked statues we saw in that one museum. Chances are, your child won’t remember how much money you spent or any facts about the tourist attractions you visited either. What they will remember is spending time with you, so make the most of it whatever you do!

The Family That Plays Together

For as long as I can remember I have loved rainy days. I grew up in a family that was always on the go and usually outside. So when all of the practices and activities were rained out, we went home to a giant bowl of popcorn to play Clue, Battleship, Connect Four, Uno, Life, and Monopoly. We sat in the den for hours with the television off talking, laughing, bonding, and playing a board game.

Board games can be a wonderful tool in promoting family unity. It’s amazing that when kids and teens get into the relaxed atmosphere surrounding the board game, they are able to open up and share so many aspects of their lives. As a family sits around a table and laughs together, the underlying message is, “I like you and I enjoy spending my time with you.” To me, this is the definition of quality time.

Board games may just look like fun and family bonding, but here are a few additional areas where board games can be educational.

Concentration and attention to details– Taking turns, following the flow of the game, and adhering to rules are skills that can carry-over into the classroom.

Strategic thinking– Many games require planning several moves ahead. This encourages a higher level of thinking and increases problem solving skills.

Creativity– Many games require drawing, acting and/or making up stories. These actions can have a positive impact on creative writing and abstract thought.

Good sportsmanship– Being able to win respectfully and lose gracefully is a skill that will stay with kids throughout adulthood.

Vocabulary and Spelling– Games like Balderdash and TriBond expand vocabulary. And, I am pretty sure that I learned how to spell the word “queue” while playing Scrabble.

This summer when it’s your turn throw the dice, know that what you are building is open communication, life long memories, and family unity. The family that plays together, stays together.