Why I’m afraid of summer vacation

Summer vacation is around the corner and I’m afraid. The hours of unstructured time yawning before me, stretching unfathomably far into the future, have me quaking in my flip-flops. The very fact that I’m filled with dread speaks to my clear maternal deficiencies. According to the internet, other mothers feel excited about all the “quality time” summer affords them. They see sprinklers, trips to the zoo, and happy exhausted children experiencing childhood without the stress and rigors of school. I see something much more sinister that mostly involves whining, yelling, tears over dropped popsicles, and sweat.

Are my children worse than everyone else’s? Perhaps other people’s children wake to a day of nothingness and think: I can ride my bike, read in the shade, chase butterflies, and enjoy my youth today! Mine don’t. Mine wake up early and already bored; the water in the sprinkler is too cold and the sun at the amusement park is too hot; the water guns got run over by the lawn mower and they don’t wanna read a book in the shade.

I suspect that it’s me that’s worse. The other mothers head off their children’s boredom by constantly organizing outings and activities. My children are insatiable though. We could spend all morning at a water park only to have them complain of boredom before we’ve made it out of the parking lot on our way home. They will play games, but only if I play with them. And here lies the crux of the problem: I don’t want to play with them. (See what I mean about maternal deficiency?) Those other mothers must enjoy the time spent with their children. I love my kids. I really do. Just thinking about them squeezes my heart in that slightly uncomfortable desperate way. But I like them more in theory than in practice.

At five and eight, their charms are not quite fully developed. Their jokes suck and their manners leave much to be desired. They’re not very good at games; they cry easily; and they whine and complain over every discomfort and delay – a mosquito bite or feeling peckish is the end of the world. I’m not much of a people person to begin with, but if I have to be around people I prefer adults, specifically the ones who have actually interesting things to say, actually funny senses of humor, and basically never ever fart on me.

We have some local day camps which my kids love. It’s a win-win situation as none of us really excel at dealing with unstructured time. The drawback is my guilt over sending them. After all, I’m supposed to be cherishing this time because it all goes so fast. Soon my little kids will be big kids, worse teenagers, and then they’ll move out and I’ll pine for these days. Today’s guilt transformed into tomorrow’s regret. They want so badly to play with me now and they’ll want nothing at all to do with me soon. Now’s the time I have to instill all the values in them, build the trust so they come to me when they’re grappling with serious problems, make sure they never drink and drive. I should be doing all of that while we cut star shapes out of watermelons and cover the driveway in chalk art.

But no matter how much I wish it, I’m not that Pinterest mom. I can’t keep my house organized with just 2 minutes per day, and I can’t spend a day with my kids without all of us fraying our last nerves. And so I’ll live with dread now, guilt soon, and regret further on. Bring on camp!


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Tips to Survive the Summer Sun

It’s officially the time of year when parents struggle to smear their children with various lotions and sprays, all very much against the will of the children themselves. For their part, the kids complain bitterly about sunscreen application (how bad can it really be?) and react to mosquito bites without an ounce of reasonable proportion.


Fun or no, sun protection is a must. I had my first basal cell removed when I was 30. Skin cancer is serious, people, and having spots cut out of you hurts and leaves scars. Whether you’re a fair-skinned burner like me, or easily tan to golden brown, the sun is not your skin’s friend.

My kids have never had a sunburn, despite both being fair and spending summer days primarily not allowed indoors. I take sun protection seriously.

Quick tips for protecting your family from the sun:

  1. Hats – have plans for a day at the beach or a shade-starved park? Everyone wears a hat, in addition to sunscreen. (At the beach or pool? Swim shirts are a must. – the less skin showing, the less struggling with wriggly kids you have to endure.)
  2. Do you really need sunscreen today? It’s sort of cloudy, after all. Here’s a tip I learned after a developing a blistering burn on a cloudy day – if you squint looking at the sky, then you need sunscreen!
  3. Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, more often if sweating or playing in water.
  4. Size matters. A little dab will not do ya when it comes to sunscreen. To achieve the SPF protection listed on the bottle, you need to apply about a golf ball sized blob to your (average adult) body. (Good thing kids are smaller!)
  5. Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen to protect your family from both UVA and UVB rays with SPF of 15 or higher.

There are so many different types of sunscreen out there, which is good, because I’ve found that it takes an arsenal. It is not a one-size-fits-all product. I have a variety at home, keep a few in my car and purse, and bring at least 3 with me to the beach. Here’s what I keep in my sunscreen arsenal:

  1. For my sensitive skinned child I find that the physical barrier sunscreens (those that contain Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide) work better than the chemical based sunscreens. The only downside with these is that they are more difficult to rub in and can make your kids look like Casper.
  2. For my hard to catch child I use a high SPF (30+), sweatproof, waterproof sports sunscreen. These blend in easily and I can usually cover him before he decides that standing still for me is optional.
  3. Generally I prefer lotions over sprays, but sprays have their place too. They are perfect for quick touch ups for hard to reach places like feet in sandals (and my own back).
  4. A day at the pool or beach means reapplications to wet skin. Thankfully, they’ve developed sunscreens that actually go on wet kids. These are a must have!
  5. One of the best things I’ve found is sunscreen/bug repellant combos. You can even find some lotions that offer a physical sunscreen in addition to deet free bug protection. Do they smell delicious? No, but they work!
  6. When my kids are at camp they each carry a small bottle of easily rubbed-in sunscreen. Turns out, they don’t mind doing it so long as it’s fast and they don’t turn white. (They will lose these, so don’t send them with your large bottle of expensive lotion. Invest in a few travel sized ones instead.)

Sunscreen application is not the highlight of anyone’s summer, but it’s non-negotiable. Considering my kids’ reaction to mosquito bites and splinters, I’d like to avoid dealing with sunburn forever if possible.

Sunscreen Micrographic

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by CHPA which has provided me compensation to write about the safe and appropriate use of OTCs. All content, views, and opinions are my own.

For more sun smart tips check out: http://www.knowyourotcs.org/2013/07/tips-to-ensure-youre-sunscreen-savvy/


A New England Spring

Spring is generally greeted with welcome relief and happiness no matter where one lives. Who isn’t cheered by the sudden appearance of tulips and daffodils and the wash of tender green over branches that looked dead just yesterday? But in New England, especially after a particularly harsh winter, spring is met with something more like manic desperation. Think: how you’d feel at the arrival of a boat on the deserted island where you’ve been stranded, starving and alone, for months. Now multiply that by nine and add a splash of just-found-out-it’s-not-cancer, a dash of won-the-lottery, and a sprinkling of returning-soldier-surprises-kid-at-school. THAT’S how New Englanders receive spring.

This isn’t mere enthusiasm, but scientific fact. Humans of New England have adapted survival mechanisms that allow them to inhabit this area with its shitty climate extremes. It’s a known fact that there are 16-23 nice days in New England per calendar year. These days occur exclusively in May and September. On these occasions one can observe all New Englanders experiencing day-long euphoric, rapturous climigasms. Every other day of the year is too cold, too hot, too humid, or literally too dangerous to venture outside. (For real. People here die when it’s cold and when it’s hot. They don’t die on 16-23 days in May and September.)

As soon and the mercury hits 50° (44° for Northern New England) and/or the calendar is turned to April, the following can be observed from Connecticut to Maine:

  • New Englanders pack away their boots and coats and pull out their shorts and flip-flops (male) or skirts/capris and many pairs of foot-baring shoes (female).
    • It’s important to note that the New England male is unable to don long pants for approximately five months after his first time wearing shorts annually.
    • The New England female is unable to cover her ankles again until the first leaves begin to fall, at which time she excitedly buys new boots.
  • New England females can be found attempting to look like they’re not freezing in their inadequate denim jackets on the sidelines of children’s sporting events and while commuting to work, running errands, and, most of all, going out to dinner.
  • Dining establishments across New England set out tables and chairs on the sidewalks, which are quickly filled with short-sleeved clad patrons who didn’t realize that the moment the sun sets the temperature dips to 35, (like it did yesterday and will again tomorrow, once again catching everyone off guard).

Once the mercury hits 60° on three consecutive days:

  • New England homeowners buy mulch in a frenzy similar to how they’d buy bottled water at the onset of a zombie apocalypse.
  • Beer sales increase by 77% across the region.
  • Daily class attendance at the many New England colleges and universities drops by 48%.
  • People seen walking around with store-bought coffee are 100% replaced by people seen walking around with store-bought iced coffee.
  • New England females look at themselves in the mirror while naked and count the days until they will likely wear a bathing suit, thus:
    • Supermarkets report a sudden 90% increase in sales of leafy greens, carrots, and hummus.
    • Sales of running shoes, workout videos, and fashionable stay-put athletic headbands increase by 82%.
    • Starbucks experiences a sharp decline in customers who opt for whipped cream atop their skinny iced mocha lattes.
  • “How to remove a tick” becomes the top search item on Google for the month of May.

When temperatures finally reach upper-70’s perfection:

  • New England homeowners can no longer get the soil out from under their nails.
  • A visit to The Home Depot on a Saturday or Sunday takes no less than two hours and costs over $200.
  • Children are slathered with sunscreen before school. (They do NOT like this.)
  • Every New Englander must post the at least 3 of the following photos on social media:
    • a photo of a tulip or daffodil
    • a photo of their ankles/legs/feet
    • a photo of their kid’s first sporting event of the season
    • a photo of the view from their run, hike, or bike ride
    • a selfie of their new “ready for summer!” haircut
  • Liquor stores report a 55% decrease in the sale of red wine and a 74% increase in the sale of white wine. Nobody buys Bailey’s or port again until November.

As of the writing of this post, much of New England is experiencing temperatures climbing well over 80°. While mornings and evenings are still pleasant, sadly several of the year’s 16-23 nice days are already behind New England’s inhabitants. Ahead lies heat and humidity, gnats and mosquitos, and visits to the beach where the ocean is perpetually frigid. New Englanders busy themselves readying for summer – a time when they complain of the heat exactly as fervently as they complained of the cold all winter, get tans the shape of their sandals, and pretend to like gazpacho.

Spring in New England

Spring in New England