Where Did the Summer Go?

In many ways I’m a bit old fashion and somewhat of a traditionalist. For example, I don’t believe in wearing a hat at the dinner table, I think holding a door open for a lady is still pure class, and teaching your kids to mow the lawn, pull the weeds, put out the trash and put away the dishes is important. I also believe that having them get a job to pay for gas and car insurance builds responsibility and character. Lastly, I believe school in the second week of August is too early, especially when most other schools start two weeks later.

There is still something pure about summer unofficially beginning on Memorial Day weekend and ending after Labor Day weekend, thus starting the school year. For all of the reasons for starting at the beginning of August, it still seems odd and doesn’t feel right and most families haven’t adjusted and in some cases continue to rebel by taking their family vacation during the first week of the new school calendar. After all, isn’t that what August is for, vacations? The only saving grace this year is that June gloom seems to have turned into July gloom, but I am sure by the time this column comes out we will be in the last days of beautiful, sunny, 90-degree August days enjoying the beach with the kids.

Oh yeah, they’ll be in school.

Although cut short, this summer has been a blast. My family spent a couple days with friends up in Paso Robles having a great time on Lake Nacimiento, then a week in Palm Desert with 100 or so fellow San Pedro locals for Pedro Springs week, most of whom live in our neighborhood, and a week in Florida visiting Universal Studios Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center, and Cape Canaveral then experiencing the launch of a communication satellite all while enjoying Cocoa Beach. It was a summer to remember.

What is most memorable about most summers though is watching the kids in our neighborhood growing up together. When we moved into our house back in December of 1996, the only kids in the neighborhood were Nick and Courtney Synstelien and our three-month-old, Antonio. Today, Nick just graduated from UCLA, Courtney attends San Jose State, and Antonio is a junior at SPHS and just received his driver’s license. Wow, how time flies.

Since then, we have seen the neighborhood grow in the number of kids, 20 to be exact. The nine girls and 11 boys; my other two sons Vincent and Luca, as well as Shereese, Sydney, Noah, Logan, Heather, David C., Tiana, Falo, Vincent A., Hailey, Madison, Avery, Joey, Kaitlyn, Nathan, Liz, Eric, and David O. are all growing up together in various stages. I think of them as the neighborhoods Little Rascals as each of them have some characteristics similar to Alfalfa, Darla, Spanky, Buckwheat, Porky, and Froggy. Watching them grow over the past 17 years has been great and it’s not over yet. Recently, the neighborhood graduated from elementary school and having two of my own in high school and one in middle school promises to bring even more experiences to the neighborhood, let alone our house.

The summers are filled with late nights with the kids either playing sports, capture the flag, skating boarding, video games, wiffle ball, swimming or just hanging out in front of the house. As I sit hear writing this column the street is full of the kids skating up and down the street, yelling “car!” anytime they see a car heading up or down the street so nobody gets hit. Even on family nights out for dinner, Noah Botica and Dave Carlton are on their skateboards in our driveway when we pull up as the boys constantly text each other on when they are almost home so they can hang out together. Soon, the question will come up from one of my boys, “Can so and so sleep over?”

As I finish up this column the next morning, sure enough, David Olivieri is crashed out on one of our couches and my son Antonio on the other. After all, isn’t this what summer is all about? spt

PARENTIPS: Surviving Summer

Ahhhh… the dog days of summer will soon be upon us. For parents, this means long days of kids bumming around the house bored and restless and even longer nights of said kids suddenly alert and full of uncontrollable energy.

Some say lucky are the parents who work outside the home and can afford to ship the kids off to foofy camps, or at the very least leave them in someone else’s care, or, um, themselves, perhaps. There is always the hope that these kids will stay up all night watching television and be so tired they will sleep all day, and then when they finally awaken, be content with more TV and video games. After all, school’s out and learning is done. The calendar says so.

While many teachers often count down to the school year ending, many parents likewise count down to the school year beginning. Make no mistake; the school year is just as challenging for dedicated teachers as it is for devoted parents. Those assignments overworked teachers spend hours correcting have often been at least glanced at by equally overworked parents.

However, whereas a teacher may have to correct some 30 of the same essays, one parent has had to review three or four worksheets in different subjects, per child, at home. A parent with four kids often has to check three or four assignments per child, all in multiple subjects. So yes, parents need as much of a break from the school year as teachers do.

Woe is the teacher who is also a parent. So let the memory of that final bell last only as long as it takes to walk off campus and toss those heavy backpacks in the garage to be forgotten immediately because the long and lazy summer is here and there shall be no need to even think about school for weeks.

Yet, somewhere in the back of responsible parents’ minds is a nagging sensation that something is just not right with that notion, tempting as it seems. Conscientious parents usually go about a week before they start to wonder if their kids’ brains are indeed mirroring the soggy cheerios left on the kitchen counter overnight. That’s when panic sets in and they start to scramble for often expensive alternatives to their summer blues.

Fear not! Your child’s brains can be stimulated for little or no cost, at home, with very little effort on your part. Here are a few suggestions for every age and grade-level on how to keep those young and impressionable brains sharp and ready for the new school year.

Fun Reading (preschool to 2nd grade) – Forget the required academic reading that your child is probably not interested in and find out what their real interests are. Sharks? UFOs? Fairies? Make-up? Plan a weekly trip to the library and check out books on these subjects. Have follow-up conversations about each book and ask your child thought-provoking questions that require NON yes or no answers. Begin your questions with HOW or WHY.

Fun Writing (3rd to 5th grade) – No heavy, grammatically correct writing that stresses most kids out. Encourage your child to write fun things like a summer diary, a wishful travel journal with pictures from magazines, a movie or sitcom script about a school, a theatrical play about a local hero, a poem about the family, a magazine about the neighborhood, a newspaper of current events, an online blog about summer fashion, or a recipe book of favorite meals. Kids enjoy rewriting the endings to favorite stories and adding new characters to folklore.

Arts and Crafts (middle school) – Challenge your child to keep an art portfolio with sketches of houses, buildings, intricate roads, outdoor scenes, or portraits of family members. Allow your kids to use old shoeboxes to build cars, airplanes, trains, or appliances and furniture. Provide household items for jewelry and fashion design. Motivate your kids to make short films about daily endeavors, a comedy one day, sci-fi the next.

Hands On (high school) – Inspire your budding entrepreneur to start a pretend business by developing an actual business plan, drafting and completing job applications, conducting job interviews, and monitoring a working budget. Plan field trips around your errands and point out civic workings in town. Allow your children to make money with car washes, lemonade stands, recycling drives, babysitting, pet care, and let them market each event on their own.

The point is to keep your kids actively thinking and productively occupied. The possibilities are endless and the rewards are infinite. Mix and match these ideas to suit your child’s unique interests and skills. Before you know it, the school year will be here and your kid will have so much to share about the busy summer she had with an impressed teacher who will be thrilled to have such a genius in his class. spt