I get it…it’s universal. Every school, every summer vacation in every state, city, county and town (as far as I know) assigns summer….B. S. Yes, I call it what it is, and I am really done.
Summer vacation is supposed to be just that…a vacation. It’s not only vacation for my kids, but a vacation for me as well: the parent, the provider, the tuition payer, the fundraiser, driver, you name it. But, when you start assigning summer work to my kids, really, you have assigned it to me, too.
Let’s face it, unless you have some off the charts beguilingly gifted kid who’s solstice aspiration is to live in the lab and/or the library, and needs NO nudging whatsoever to read a book or “enjoy” a math packet, your urging, nagging, pushing, whatever euphemism you apply to the situation, becomes part of summer anxiety, and as a summer baby, summer should be flowy, and free, like the women in long dresses running through cornfields in Summer’s Eve commercials.
As we laughed our asses off at my birthday get together last night, the mood turned cold and somber when I asked my girlfriends if they had done any of the summer assignments. One turned to me, face similar to the grotesque figure in Edvard Munch’s “The Scream," and almost crying asked, “we had summer assignments?” Oh yes we do, and guess what, I haven’t gotten off my tanned ass to do them either, because they suck.
Imagine if you worked all year for your boss, and here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for all freiking year, your two weeks of vacation have finally arrived! As you are walking out the door, dreaming of Bellinis, Prosecco and handsome men in Speedos as you head for your dream vacation in Monte Carlo, your boss turns to you and says, “Oh yeah, in between dips in the Mediterranean, can you please finish these files. I mean you can just upload and download and have them ready for me in an email. No rush, as long as they are ready by the Monday you return. But, have a great time and enjoy your vacation.” I would be like, F-OFF. But oh no, summer assignments are allowed, and it’s the same concept.
How much does a kid get from a summer “reading” assignment? Not much, really. I’ve been at this a long time, and the only thing, even for some of mine who are honor students (the names have remained anonymous to protect the innocent on both ends of the spectrum), ZERO, ZERO, ZERO. Nobody wants to read, it’s a chore, and the absorption of fact and enjoyment on the acidity reading stick is albino colored, so my time and theirs has been wasted.
I don’t understand what the education system is afraid of…is my kid coming back illiterate because they didn’t read two books in the ten weeks they didn’t sit at a desk? Do you have such little faith in your teaching staff and your institution that the staying power of what you taught them for nine months will just evaporate with the first jump off the high dive or bite of boardwalk cheese fries? Have a little more faith in your educational rubric.
And the math assignments? I think a week of refreshing when they return in September is plenty. I suck at math, and I certainly remember how to multiply, divide and conquer after being out of school thirty years. Do not get me started on unnecessary math concepts, either. There’s a great adage that applies to this writer mommy, “My whole day went by and I still didn’t use algebra.”
I am a Summa Cum Laude graduate with a double degree. So, yeah, I value education, and so did my parents. All my siblings are college graduates, and my father, a successful entrepreneur, was an attorney as well. My husband is an M.D., and that should sum up how we promote education in our household…we do. But, summer should be a time to pursue other things…not just academics…the arts, athletics, dream jobs, internships, culture, travel…other things that make your little bundles of joy well-rounded, well spoken, and oh yeah, aware of the importance of family time.
So here’s a happy medium to all institutions of both higher education and grammar school: If you want to assign a reading assignment, give the students a month to pick out two books that interest THEM…they will get more out of what they read, extend the absorption if they have a choice, and exercise their creativity and brain function if they can go outside the box and really learn. Scientifically oriented kids should be able to read books on space, theater goers and musicians can read Shakespeare or Mozart’s bio, or similar, baby chef’s can read cooking books..the list goes on. And, a test? How about a demonstration or a project during the first month of school?
You will see a lot more learning, and a lot more enthusiasm from this method, I assure you.
I swear to God, if I have to go over BISCUIT GOES TO SCHOOL, MORRIS THE MOOSE or a choice from the WHO AM I bio series, one more time, I’m going to make book covers out of the collage of pages so nobody forgets what they’ve read.
DONE with summer assignments.
Homework is next…
Whenever I plan a trip, it usually has some semblance of “kid’s menu” written on it. But, since I turned fifty…vomit…and Gianmarco is four and gave my husband and myself the gift of a new king size bed (we’ve had it for fourteen years, but everything old is new again) we didn’t realize we had, we decided to take a grown up weekend “down the shore,” as we Jersians say. I think the shore has its charm for low-key beachy fun with the family, and short jaunts for the casual, no heirs, no make up (good luck) are a great getaway, but not my first choice for a real vacation. However, Cape May made me reformulate my skewed view on the beauty-less ( I didn’t say charmless) Jersey shore. I loved it, loved it, loved it.
We live at the second to last exit on the Parkway, 171. Cape May is exit “0,” literally. Any true Jersey Babe or Guy will understand what the question “Are you from Jersey? I’m from Jersey! Oh yeah, which exit?” when you ride up and down the Parkway for most of your life. Some of this can be captured in Jersey boy, Joe Piscopo’s several part rendition of “New Jersey” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7NT_4SLXvc. But, Cape May is in it’s own world. It’s clean, manicured, cultural and charming.
I found this new town (new to me, that is), that had the illusion of visiting a hybrid of Savannah and Santa Monica. The Victorian dwellings, from small to gargantuan, ranging from B&Bs to restaurants and private homes, that lined the side streets and Beach Avenue, must all use the same landscaper, on schedule, because the baby lawns were pristine, without a hair out of place. The flowers and foliage were some of the most colorful and freshest I have seen aside from Capri, Italy. The beach, which is typical of Southern Jersey, from the Wildwoods down to the Cape was welcoming and wide, and not a drop of garbage. I think Cape May town hall must be well versed in the age old art of cleaning up after yourself, or the town has it’s stealth bombers, just like Disney, who clean up and plant without you ever knowing they were there.
Al and I stayed at the Ocean Club, to which the only drawback, as it is with other hotels on Beach Ave, is the highway running between the front door and the beach. We sat at the pool one afternoon, and I got a great tropical feel, similar to Punta Cana, until I realized there were cars and parking meters on the other side of the pool. On the bright side, the pool was immaculate and warm, with a shallow end, probably just for kids, but we sat in the water for hours. We ventured to the beach the day prior, but even as a welcomed hotel guest, the town gets you for beach badges at 6.00 a pop, and the hotel provided comfy lounge chairs and towels, but if you didn’t want to get basal cell in one afternoon, you needed to spring 10.00 for an umbrella…am I buying the umbrella? Anything on the beach is cash, so if you left your wallet at home, you could die of dehydration.
I have to say, I loved, loved the bedding and the sheets in our room, whose outside was quite deceiving. The lobby of the hotel was similar to an upscale Caribbean resort, and echoed the feeling of the Cape May streets, that you may not really be at a Jersey shore resort. But, the small elevator and rustic room entrance threw me off. Behind the blueberry steel door, with a tiny laminated room placard to the left with the room number, was surprisingly, a great room, a tiny suite, clean, vacuumed, crisply linened bed, (which was one of the most comfortable I have slept in) and cute balcony overlooking the pool. (But DO NOT walk around your room naked. You will be the poolside entertainment unless you close the blinds). The hallway façade was just a masquerade for a better than most beach hotel room.
We were able to dine at a few hip joints, and finally just ask for a table for two, which got us in much quicker, and we were able to soak in the ambience. Thumbs up: The Mad Batter, The Blue Pig, 410 Bank Street..all great eats, each with their own signature grub. My favorite find? The Cape May Peanut Butter Co., which will get its own blog entry….
There were a lot of kids around, strollers, parents pushing strollers, fumbling with beach toys, coolers and bags of crap you just need for a three hour visit to the beach. For the first time in a long time, I could just walk by them and think for 72 hours, “better you than me.” I heard “mom,” about ten times a morning as we walked, but it was a relief that I didn’t have to answer, although I had to psych myself into adult mode that it wasn’t my kid.
A definite travel thumbs up to an undiscovered Hip Mom hideaway in my own state. Not a great family spot, for a couples get away, it fit the bill.
Hip Mom Hint: Nothing is cheap here…not a bargain to be found, so before you come down, scope out http://www.jerseycapecoupons.com for some possible bargains. If you are on a budget, take this into consideration. Lots of fun places to eat, too, that are not sit down. Dying to try this spot…looked yummy and great reviews. Take lunch to the beach: http://www.hotdogtommys.com/
The culinary natives in my house are getting restless. Every time Vale walks in the door from her exhausting day at Papermill, she seems to have high hopes for some abondanza-like spread, or at least something reminiscent of a school-night meal. I adore cooking, but I also like my summers to have less cadence, and more of a laissez faire feel…enter Grub Hub, and same day delivery. However, mid July, chicken and broccoli and soprasotto pizza are starting to lose their lusture.
I even took a junk food plunge, and after about 15 years of NOT eating it, got creative w KFC. I was about seven pounds heavier the next morning, and completely grossed out. I have no idea how people use take out as a staple of their day to day meal planning, or lack of planning. It’s starting to take it’s toll. As easy as it is, I cannot do this as a lifestyle.
Let’s hear a round of encore applause for foil, yet again, and one of everyone’s favorite trip to the Orient throwbacks, ASIAN STYLE RIBS.
Easy, easy, easy.
You will need:
½ cup each: hoisin sauce and ketchup
4 tsp. Siracha
1 ¼ tsp each: salt, sesame oil, rice vinegar
Mix the above well in a bowl.
Coat 2lbs baby back ribs with the mixture.
Place on a single layer heavy duty or double sheet of foil and make a packet.
Grill over indirect heat and cover, turning occasionally for about an hour.
Serve with rice and a salad.
Hip Mom Hint: Always use Kosher salt for flavor and absorption. I marinate these in the morning and let them sit until I am ready to cook. If there is enough meat on the bone, you can poke a few holes with a fork to let the marinade seep in. If this is a last minute dinner, you don’t have to marinate. I always set up the recipe for four people, but obviously adjust according to your headcount.