This time a year ago, our lives were so very different.
While we were slowly emerging from our homes, our summer this time a year ago was unrecognizable from summers of the past.
County fairs, amusement parks and summer concerts — all staples of summer fun — were not held and many other events that we have come to see as adored and anticipated traditions went away, too.
While I certainly will never mind the bonus time that last year’s pandemic induced quarantine gave me with my husband and two young sons, the return to something closer resembling the pre-pandemic normal has been much needed.
That said, the simplicity of life that I was able to achieve last summer has been troublesome to sustain — and I feel like in many ways, I am back to being a hamster on the wheel, trying to keep up with everyone’s schedules.
Am I that out of practice or did I simply forget how to manage it — or is it just a pent up need to get out of the house that was our mainstay for well over a year?
As we approach the summer season, I am pulling out some of the things I enjoyed most about the “lockdown” life — and trying to find ways to bring them into my family’s new normal.
The return of chaotic schedules: This week alone, my son has had some kind of obligation every night — baseball games, movies with friends and even a fall sports practice — and as I type this, it is only Wednesday! Yikes.
Last summer, I spent a ton of time brainstorming ways to keep my kids occupied because they were preparing for a pretty low key and home-bound summer.
What a change, right?
If your family calendar has suddenly booked up for the days and weeks ahead, try going back to some basic meal planning — and automate your evening dinners to save yourself time and stress.
This week, I bought chips, chopped fruit and made several cold salads to keep on hand while I made several crock pot meals to serve as main dishes.
With the four of us all having different meal schedules, this has kept me sane and helped me make sure that we are all still having a decent dinner that did not come from a drive-through window!
While this is a great practice to do when you are busy, automating your meals and planning and cooking several meals at once is a good practice in simple living.
Who wants to cook every night anyway?
Plan out several days of meals and look for intersecting ingredients — for example, could that pot roast be turned into open face sandwiches later in the week?
How about that rotisserie chicken — toss it in some taco seasoning the next day for Taco Tuesday and make sure you have all the side items prepped in advance so dinner is as simple as reheating and putting it on the table.
It may take a few weeks to get the rhythm down but once you meal prep for multiple meals, you will be a pro — and may never want to return to your former way of doing things again!
• Family Fun: Last summer, we had a lot of family game nights or a Friday night at the movies — on our couch.
It was done out of sheer need because the movie theater was closed and there were literally no activities that I could take my kids to.
That being said, those family game nights and movie nights are something that my kids still look forward to and request.
Even if you have a busy summer schedule and plans to catch up on all that we missed last year, schedule at least one family night a month that lets you embrace that simple together time as a family.
Couples can do the same and perhaps even alter it into a monthly cook dinner together date.
Singles can plan a small get-together with friends and make it a fun game night or wine tasting — the sky’s the limit on what fun you can have with the people who you love the most.
The most important rule here is that you simply set aside one day a month to spend a quiet evening with your loved ones.
It is super simple and will help recharge your batteries for the busy items that face you on your to do list!
• 86 the Electronics: Last year, I relied on my smartphone to stay connected with the outside world.
As grateful as I am for technology, now that things have returned to something closer to normal.
I am feeling the need to put my social media on snooze, or at least cut back a bit.
When I put my social media on the backburner, I found that time seemed to go by a little slower.
Rather than trying to capture the perfect moment to chronicle for later, I was so much more in the moment to begin with.
This summer, put down your tablet or smartphone and use that time to sit on the porch and watch the kids at play or bird watch.
You won’t miss the scrolling and will find the activity to be relaxing beyond measure.
If you are not ready to ice your social media time completely, set some summer limits — for example, only logging in at the end of the day — and see what that does to your mood!
I imagine you will find some bonus time for some fun summer fun at the same time!
(Editor’s Note: Kristine George is a freelance journalist who resides in Easton.)