Practical Magic

2314 2314_ () 2314 2314 It’s summertime and the living is not easy, not at all.

Oh, let me start over. For this mother of boys, summertime can be a challenge. It’s definitely fun and less structured and involves fewer alarms clocks, to be sure. There are a myriad of amazing elements that elevate the season to Fantastic status. But I wouldn’t go so far as to call it easy; easy is simply not the word that comes to mind.

Here are a few other things that summertime is not, especially when you have a houseful of boys. Summertime is not quiet. It isn’t serene. It does not involve piles of food in a well-stocked fridge. There are flashes of these moments throughout the season of summer, but as a rule things around my home are more about wild, crazy, joyous action-packed living — which also involves eating constantly (thus, we’re always low on food).

When the dreamy ideal shows up every so often (peace, quiet, tranquility), I now recognize these as sweet little bonus moments. Back when my “ideal” was what I was always hoping to see, I was a tired, cranky momma.

This summer, there will indeed be the occasional moment of sweet bliss when my five boys are sitting in the front room. They will be strewn among the couches and chairs, sitting quietly, sipping gatorade and enjoying a few moments of a new favorite book.

This might even happen everyday, which will be awesome.

The trick for me is to remember that the majority of summertime moments won’t be like this. At the very least I need to remember that for every three minutes spent reading in quiet perfection, there must be four minutes of mud wrestling to offset the quiet mood.

The smartest thing any mother can do in the summer is have a plan. For some families, that plan will look a lot like no plan, and that is wonderful. There are some women who thrive on having an open calendar and the sky as the limit.

Other women, like myself, need to have some semblance of structure — not nearly as much as during the rest of the year, but an idea at least of how the day will proceed.

This might be born of your personality or, like me, of a combination of your genetic make-up and the fact that you have birthed five males (and a sweet girl too!). Having a lot of boys and a fondness for order creates a unique challenge. Ultimately all I can do is accept I’m one of those gals that likes to have a plan, and then get a plan and get with that plan.

This summer, and I am not even lying about this, my plan includes a lock on my refrigerator. Oh not my main fridge — I’m not that cruel. But I am absolutely locking my “spare” fridge, the one where I will keep all the yummy foods that we like to feast upon. These foods will be set aside and made available to all those who are joyful, contributing members of our Daily Schedule. Which is to say yes, I’m totally rewarding my kids with food for hard work done with a smile.

This might not be your approach, but I have learned in these last years of dealing with boys and now young men, that they really love to eat and doing chores is not their favorite. With the merger of two seemingly disparate tasks (working and eating), I have high hopes of continuing to train my boys in the way they should go.

Summertime isn’t all about hard work and no play — but trust me when I say my boys are far from being dull. I know that the majority of our season will indeed be about having fun, but having a plan for getting through the days is a big part of what keeps me happy and sane.

[This column originally appeared in The Southern Cross.] 2314″>



  1. Catherine says

    Amen and great article. I am an order and schedule person also, and I love to read that others are the same…it makes me feel a little less guilty about my strictness : ) We had a family meeting the day vacation started and I laid it all out for them and the rules sounded like one “No!” after the other. Then I realized that I had thought through everything and knew this was what I needed and what they needed too. And it’s working well!

    The best things we’ve implemented are mass twice a week as a family and kitchen closing times. My three oldest are boys 16,15 and 14 and I hear you on the food issue……hmm, second fridge for locking is starting to sound like a fabulous idea.

  2. I think I will initiate something like this, too. I have heretofore overlooked the most obvious motivator! Brilliant.

  3. What a rockin’ awesome idea! Although I’m a pretty free spirit when it comes to summer break, I am filing “lock the fridge” in my memory for a couple years down the road when my boys think they’re old enough to help themselves to their owns snacks! May your summer be blissfully exciting, organized and joyous!

  4. Michelle says

    I am glad to see you went with the “lock the fridge” approach. Will you carry the key around your neck? ;0)

  5. Melissa Rakiey says

    Great article!

  6. another mom in GA says

    PLEASE do share (as a mom of 4 boys myself) – What is inside the locked fridge??!! I’m dying to know. It’s not really important but sure would be fun to know what foods motivate your boys to get chores done. I’m not above some bribery here and there…… 🙂

  7. Can we please have a glimpse into your daily schedule? I am one who desperately wants to be organized, but God did not give me that skill! I thought by now with 5 boys I would just become that way out of necessity, but not so.


  8. This article is completely serendipitous for me! After one full week of freetime and food being devoured in every area of our home I spent last night trying to think how to schedule out the rest of this summer with my three boys. (you are right – they eat all the time!)
    I will be linking this post on my blog today !

  9. My boys are 9 and 6 (and a girl, 2) and we are starting to have this all-day eating thing. In our case it’s year-round – homeschool – so I am going to have to figure out something long term. I was kind of horrified once to read about “kitchen hours” but, umm… it’s starting to make more sense now as the kids get older. On a related note, I saved a link to this enlightening and terrifying post about HOW to feed growing sons (enough) – all the ideas are in the comments over at Rocks In My Dryer: ~ I thought you or others might find it useful! Thanks for this.. er, food for thought, Rachel!

  10. Also, if you have ever read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Farmer Boy”, you will feel better knowing that boys through the ages have also had to eat all day 🙂

  11. Martin from Australia says

    Mrs Balducci – you’ve probably read this – and/or have lived it.

  12. Please do share your general summer routine! I’m a mom of four boys who very much likes order and structure. Summer needs at least some structure. I’d love to get some ideas from your routine! I think food as reward for chores is a fabulous idea. I’m pretty sure it will help here too!

  13. I love the locking fridge idea. My kids used to go through two or more week’s worth of snacks in just a few days, and it drove me crazy. Now? I put one week’s worth of snacks in the cupboard, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. It took a few tries on their part, but my kids finally figured out that the cupboard is resupplied on Mondays, and they’ve started rationing themselves.

  14. Dede G Oregon says

    you have spoken my thoughts! I have 5 boys and 1 girl, in that order. Literally, I am counting down the hours (left of school) until we have “lift off”! best of luck…I pray your summer is a happy one….with a few surprises (pleasant ones~) with no injuries!