Less Is More

In my book, less is more when it comes to enjoying the summer. When the kids are out of school, I institute the no-cell-phone policy in the house. Computer time is severely restricted and tv time is mostly limited to things we watch together. There are fewer activities in general and far fewer solitary ones.

Summertime is project time, book reading time, picnic time, game time, relaxing time, long-walk time, adventure time, fixing time. I jot down a list of household projects I want to tackle, the supplies needed to complete them and create a calendar and schedule. I purchase the summer reading books and discuss which other books the kids want me to read to them as a family. We figure out which day trips to take and which adventures we’d like to try. We take the dog on long walks; go bike riding and skateboarding and have picnics down at the water. We visit pools and beaches. We play copious amounts of games – cards and board. But, we do it in our own time. Less stress means more fun.

Dinner is easy because we can make it together. Clean-up goes faster because we do it together. Conversation is more plentiful because we have the time. I don’t pack the summer with things to do because I like the flexibility to change my mind. Some summers have been full of modeling shoots, others have had nothing but the pool. Some summers have been camping and Florida resorts, trips to the shore, and much more, others have been only camping and VBS. We only have a few set dates. We volunteer every year for the church’s VBS, and we go camping every year. Some years we do an additional vacation or two, or a one-week sleepaway camp. Besides those things, everything else is easily moved.

Like cooking over a fire in one or two pots, simplicity makes everything better. The food is tasty; the cleanup is easy, the aroma intoxicating. So much can be learned from a campfire. How to build it, which part produces the most heat, when to cook over it, how not to burn your food, and how to revive it. One of the first things I taught the kids when they were small was how to make a fire from what you find around you. Start with dry pieces of straw or wood fiber, then to tiny kindling, then progress from small to large fuel, create a frame, and grow from small to large logs. Make sure there is air for the fire to breathe. Light from the bottom. Use a flint if you don’t have a match. Protect a new flame from the wind. Use birch bark as a fire starter.

They learned quickly enough that the flames, while beautiful and enticing, will only burn their food. The glowing embers at the bottom are what provide the most consistent heat to both cook your food evenly and warm you when you are cold. It’s also in the embers where you can resurrect a fire from what seems like only ash if you dig a little. Even the clean-up is a learning experience. The lesson learned in cleaning everything well. Putting food and dishes away in an organized fashion to make sure you have it when you need it and can find it in a hurry, and learning that when you do things quickly and efficiently, it leaves more time for fun later is something they will use for the rest of their lives… I hope. Finally, they get to see that something doesn’t have to be fancy, name brand, or over the top to be good. In fact, when you strip away all the superficial, you get to enjoy it for what it is in its essence without the label expectations.

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