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Katie Pinke is scheduling less to experience more family time this summer. Her youngest child, Anika, is pictured at Green Lake near Wishek, N.D., with the family dogs Champ (as a puppy in 2017) and Libby. (Katie Pinke/ Agweek/ Forum News Service)

Give up summer activities and pastimes to gain more family time

A few years ago, I wrote a piece for the Fargo-based magazine On the Minds of Moms about planning and enjoying a "slow summer" with my kids and husband. Despite my best intentions, I fell into the trap of "doing more" and ended the summer exhausted from the pace of our family life.

After a series of hectic summers, I came to the realization we need more days and weeks with zero plans to truly slow down and enjoy life as a family. Between baseball and basketball practices and games, sports camps, gymnastics, swimming lessons, Vacation Bible School, Bible camp, family reunions, camping, the county fair and getting kids to complete their 4-H projects ahead of the fair, scores of potted flowers and a big vegetable garden with its never-ending weeding, slowing down wasn't an option. To top it off, summer is fast-paced for my husband who is a home builder and small business owner. He works 15 to 18 hours most summer days.

For our family to experience a slow summer, it's up to me to carve out downtime. I want to slow down June, July and August — the precious months I long for during the beastly bitter days in January — to soak in every minute of all summer has to offer.

Having been through the tween and teen years with my now 20-year-old son, I know it won't be long before Elizabeth's and Anika's summer schedules fill up with activities of their choosing. When our daughters turn 13, they will start going to work with my husband to sweep floors and stock shelves.

This summer, my "baby" turns nine. Knowing full well my years with children under roof are fleeting, I made some drastic decisions, with full support of my husband, to make a slower summer a reality for our family.

No baseball practices. No baseball games. For the first time in 16 years, I don't have a child in baseball of any sorts. This is especially challenging for me because I can see teams practicing from our corner of the prairie. I was oh so tempted to send my girls to the first practices for their teams — but I resisted.

To physically slow down, we're also taking the summer off from swimming lessons. No Bible camp either. We'll return to these things in the future, but after talking with my girls we carefully chose only a few activities to add to our summer calendar: two basketball day camps, a few golf lessons and 4-H projects, which they'll enter in our county fair.

For the first time in 11 years, I don't have a vegetable garden. I have no flowers in my home office window box. There are no potted flowers on my front porch. I feel a twinge of slacker guilt from time to time, and this slow summer challenge is testing my on-the-go personality. But I'm learning sometimes less really is more.

I'm certain our fairly open calendars will fill up somewhat when opportunities come to us the day or week of, but at least we'll be able to consider the possibility. Our girls have already created a summer reading chart, complete with personal reading goals with unapproved prizes from mom.

Elizabeth, who's 10, has listed one of her rewards as "go to work with Mom in Fargo." That one I can do. Anika has a goal to read 1,200 minutes with a reward of "my own new iPod," which hasn't been decided on yet. The fact they are creating their own summer plans is a sign we might just be on track for a slower summer. I'll keep you posted.