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One week into summer vacation and chaos reigns. Bribery, bickering and another word that starts with b abound. And somehow me showering has fallen completely off the schedule. The kids are watching so much TV they know what I mean when I say I feel like I’m turning into Kate Gosselin (“You are way less mean mom,” they say, but I still have this feeling that I’ve pandered, Gosselin-like, to get the compliment).

Instead of the soothing tones of NPR I get the off-key strains of the Beach Boys “California Girls” while I’m waiting for summer band practice to let out. Instead of long coffee dates with friends, we steamroll through the Starbucks, leaving behind a trail of pastry wrappers and discarded drinks that prove no amount of whipped cream or caramel drizzle can completely cover up the taste of coffee. Instead of my studio exercise class, I’m getting lapped by 9-year-olds on a jog around the block.

All in all, not SO bad. But now that they are home, there are some ways I’m making it work for me:

1. Chores. I know, they should be doing lots of chores all the time. But I find that summer is a great time to get some help around the house. The trick is to bore them to the point where they will fold laundry just to have something to do. This somehow stops working once they hit the preteen years.

2. Bribery: In Summer, I need to get stuff done. I just don’t have time to keep things tidy and drive these kids to all the various tutors and music lessons and general stuff they don’t want to do. So I solved two problems (not getting the beds made and kids refusing to go to said tutors or lessons) with one stone. I mean solution: currency exchange. They do the work and I give them something they want. Sometimes it’s a small item like an extra dessert or a small toy (I got a bunch of little things at the toy store and popped them in my purse). And then we worked out a system wherein they can save up good deeds to earn bigger rewards: three times at the tutor’s means a book for one of my 9-year-old daughters, or a week of writing workshop gets the 13-year-old a pair of shorts. And then there’s the long game: my other 9-year-old is saving all her good deeds for one of those huge stuffed animals they put outside of the toy store.

3. Dashboard Confessional : No, not the band (although that would be better than some of the stuff the kids like to listen to in the car). The chaotic schedule we’ve got this summer combined with the fact that the kids can be left alone for a few minutes means I get to be in the car with just one kid pretty often. Especially for the twins, this is really a unique opportunity. These are the times I feel like I really get to know who they are and who they are becoming. And they can get any grievances off their chests without another kid piping up about their side of the story. AND they have to listen to what I say or exit a moving car.

Now, I just have to get showering back into the schedule  . . . .