How to Survive a Rainy Start to Summer
Dana Bowman

My son’s face is two inches from mine as I wake in a tangle of sheets. I eye him first, and then the alarm clock. It is well before seven a.m. and he is so perky I wonder if he has learned how to use our cappuccino maker.

“So, what are we gonna do today? Huh, Mom? What? What?”

That’s a good question. Our summer is slogging along, quite literally, under a damp blanket of rainstorms and chilly mornings. We seem to be awash in grey skies and cold temperatures, trapping us inside. The sultry days of pool trips and bike rides seem only a distant memory, and no one in my family is happy about it. We have a serious case of cabin fever.
But since I can’t make each day a magical outing to Disney World, what are we to do around here? Sure, we can jet off to a local museum or a movie, but dawn to dusk cannot be packed with trips and swag; our budget won’t stand for it, and neither will my energy level. What is a tired mom to do, to survive? We need a plan, or the cabin will fall.
So, here are three tips for managing summer days of shut-in:

1. Keep Calm and Organize On

As much as summer beckons us to set aside all schedules and just focus on soaking up some sun, it is best to have a daily agenda. At the beginning of summer, my boys and I wrote out, almost to the hour, what our life would look like during June through August. The first major goal was to divvy out daily chores to all of us. It is extremely helpful to know that I don’t have to tackle cleaning the entire house every day, because since we are all home quite a bit more and the grime does pile up, I can breathe and tell myself, “Bathrooms tomorrow. Stay focused!” Thus, my sanity remains intact. For the most part.

We have even scheduled the breakfast choices for the week. I am not a morning person, and after blearily attempting to deal with umpteen dining requests, at the crack of dawn, my boys and I assigned our favorite morning dishes to a day. Tuesday is maple oatmeal day; Thursday is scrambled eggs and cinnamon toast day, and so on. Now we have no more menu arguing, and my six year old has become quite adept at checking the chart and taking on the role of sous chef. He has totally mastered cold cereal day, hallelujah.

In general, our daily itinerary starts with breakfast at a certain time (sleeping in doesn’t ever seem to happen around here, as much as I wish it would, so we might as well get a move on).
Then chores, and on to play time, or we do some writing or art time, followed by lunch. The daily schedule even has a slot for television or tablet time. The kids know how the day will proceed. We made sure that every day, rain or shine, has “outside time” — even if that means getting on rain boots and mucking about in the mud. And we always have down time for reading and resting; that precious hour offers renewal for us all. It’s when I wrote this article!

These schedules are always up for alteration, but for the most part my kids seem to really appreciate the pattern.

Once the children grow a little older, mapping all this out to the hour might not be necessary, but a simple white board with the days’ major goals and chores is a great way to keep things running smoothly.

2. Make It a Throw-Away Day

Twice a year my children and I participate in a Great Toy Purge at our house. I set out four laundry baskets, and the boys get started making signs and taping the labels to each: Trash, Repair, Keep, and Give Away.

And then, we crank up Frozen’s “Let it Go,” on the stereo and start dumping out toys on the living room floor. Like, ALL of our toys. And the sorting begins. Bargaining does occur, and sometimes Mom has to play the “Mom Card” and get rid of a broken Spiderman torso that just really creeps her out, but for the most part the activity is quite liberating.

When we are done, we make sure that the Give Away box is donated right away (or at least stowed in the car so there is no second guessing) and yes, we march the Throw Aways right out to the garbage, say a quick “good riddance” and, well, get RID of them.

And then, we marvel at all the toys we haven’t seen in ages, and it is like Christmas all over again! I happily organize Legos and Uno cards into all their proper places and wait until next year when they are once again a disorganized mess. It’s the circle of toy-life, I guess, but it’s a great way to start the summer.


3. Go a Little Crazy

By now you’re thinking, well, where’s the fun? Organizing and scheduling things? Where’s the spontaneity? Where’s the freedom?

My best rainy summer day trump card is the Crazy Day, which is just what it sounds like. We nix the plan. We go a little crazy, on purpose. We picnic in the living room, and eat popsicles for lunch.

We listen to the Beach Boys and have a dance party or pretend we’re surfing on the piano bench. We throw down couch cushions as “life rafts” and we play Don’t Get Eaten by Mommy Shark for a bit. I make a houseboat with them under the dining room table. We eat dinner in it and then, if the husband agrees, the boys camp out. It might be important to note: the husband does the sleeping on the floor thing; I just signed up for building the boat, not sleeping in it.

On cooped up days, there’s a whole lot of crazy that can go on in your house that is unwanted, so sneakily scheduling it in once in a while on purpose is a great way to circumvent whiney chaos. I have been known to offer movie night AND popcorn and pudding dinners on Crazy Day, which for me is really pushing the envelope of nutty, but the kids love it. Sometimes we make the day all about one color, or the letter Z, or we decide to take our favorite stuffed animals on a long trip, and it is safari day. My favorite Crazy Day is when we stay in our jammies and have backwards day (breakfast for dinner, and so on) simply because I love the concept of pancakes with loads of syrup as an ending to my day. Who doesn’t?

The best part about Crazy Day is that your littles will remember it for long time.

And, it’s only a day, after all. You can go back to normal the next morning. Who knows? Maybe tomorrow the sun will finally venture out, and you can finally head to the pool.
Until then, Keep Calm and Crazy On.

Dana Bowman is a wife, a mother, a teacher, a writer, and a runner, all simultaneously. This is only possible because her family donates loads of material. She has been published in numerous magazines, and is the proud author at Her book, Bottled: How to Survive Early Recovery with Kids, is due out in September. One day, she hopes to master the skill of making sure all dessert apportionment is completely equal.