As we transition into summer vacation, it is time to trade grueling daily routines and school-related activities for home projects, family gatherings, and a more relaxed schedule.

As we transition into summer vacation, it is time to trade grueling daily routines and school-related activities for home projects, family gatherings, and a more relaxed schedule.

My youngest already staked a claim to his summer project. He is painting his room. And I know he is serious. He thoroughly cleaned the room from top to bottom before school ended. And I don’t mean he shoved everything in the closet and under the bed. He really cleaned.

He actually returned all the dirty plates, bowls, cups, and utensils he was holding hostage. Hubby and I are thinking of hosting a dinner party because we now have a full set of dishes. The only downside to getting back our dishware is realizing we lack enough cabinet space for it all.

My child also took out three bags of trash, dusted, vacuumed, caught up his laundry, steam cleaned, and changed the sheets on his bed. I told you he was serious. Once his room was in order, he waited for us to happen upon his newfound cleanliness before suggesting we let him paint.

Once the bait was out there and Hubby and I were nibbling, our son noted he was an experienced painter. We had, he reminded us, employed his skills when the dining room needed a splash of color. He then reassured us that he learned from his experience. This time, he would not get paint all over the floor.

He had us at, “I want to,” but we let him argue his case anyway. He had prepared so well, we felt obligated to listen. But considering painting his room will not involve electricity, computers, smartphones, a television, or other electronic devices, Hubby and I were thrilled to oblige and invest in a couple of cans of paint.

This summer, we are hosting our family’s reunion, so we have lots of other projects to keep us busy. Don’t tell Hubby, but the main reason I suggested we host this year was so we’d finally take care of some of that pesky cosmetic work around the house.

While my youngest is painting his room, we’ll be cleaning out drawers and closets, sprucing up the yard, hanging shelves and picture frames, and rearranging furniture. Windows will be cleaned, the house will be power washed, and my flowerbeds will finally get the attention they crave.

Since we are considered the southern branch of the family despite where we were born, the vegetable and herb garden I get to plant while my cousins, aunts, and uncles are still shoveling snow must be weed-free and plush.

Therefore, Hubby finally had the tiller serviced, I finally got around to buying and putting down garden fabric, and I’ve gone ahead and replaced dying seedlings with strong plants from the garden store. We must not only have a beautiful garden to show off, it must be producing lots of crops for our northern relatives to enjoy.

The impending gathering also means Ma and I must go patio furniture shopping. We can’t offer rickety, weather-worn furniture to our family’s travel-weary bottoms. Rather, after their long trips in from the north and west, our relatives will experience the nicest patio furnishings we can find on clearance.

Hubby will also be getting a new grill. We’ve been happy to make due with the decades-old one that came with the house up until now. But we plan to cook thousands of burgers, dogs, and veggies over the span of a week. Apparently, our current grill won’t be able to handle the load.

Last summer, when I suggested we host the family gathering, Hubby agreed wholeheartedly. When all the relatives accepted our invite, Hubby began fretting over the grill situation. Every time we’ve grilled since, he has been careful to note that a few pieces of chicken and a basket of shrimp was already taxing its capacity. Then he’d audibly wonder how we’d handle all the cooking during the family reunion.

As a result, Hubby’s Father’s Day gift — which will also count for Christmas, his birthday, and next Father’s Day — will be installed around the time Ma and I plan to be furniture shopping. Depending how long the install takes, we might also treat ourselves to lunch.

Once the grill is in place, however, we will be eating at home a lot. A grill as nice as the one we selected deserves to be used often. And since all the parts come with a lifetime free-replacement guarantee, Hubby won’t have to fret about wearing it out.

The best part of hosting our family this year is that all of our summer projects will be completed by the end of June. When everyone arrives, our house and the grounds will look better than ever before. That leaves us the rest of the summer to enjoy it.

And enjoy it we will, since we won’t be able to afford a vacation. Next year, we plan to save lots of money — we are going to fly our entire family to my aunt and uncle’s house for the next family reunion.


Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is