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family chatter Wonderful Time of the Year The Most BY MARY BECELIA with time off and vacation will be fading into memory. Thank goodness, I say, thank goodness we finally get to relax back into the comforting routine of school and work. Swim team, summer camps, visits to playgrounds and parks, play dates with friends, and -- the capstone of the whole thing -- our family vacation to Oregon, Washington and Alaska are wonderful, but bring a fair share of stress. First, there is the matter of mapping out the summer. Picking a few fun camps from the many offerings and hoping that your kids enjoy what your budget can sustain is the initial challenge. Once that gets sorted out, you can fill in the gaps with playground and park visits that seem like such a great idea in the abstract, but when you factor in the 100 degree weeks we've had this summer, the ventures are less idyllic. Catching up with friends -- good luck! Their summer schedules will invariably conflict with yours, leaving precious few opportunities for getting together. When you do manage a play date, the kids wind up arguing. Bring out the margaritas and try to ignore the fracas in the playroom until the shrieks become ear-splitting. Like us, many of you may have also had a family vacation planned. Here is a confession: my kids are 7 and 10 and this was our first big trip together. I say "was," but as I type this it hasn't B y the time you read this, summer vacation will be receding into the background and the scents, sounds and sensations associated 38 Fredericksburg Parent and Family • September 2012 old Staples ad goes, as a giddy dad frolics among the school supplies, loading his cart with Post-Its and pencil sharpeners while his glum kids trudge reluctantly behind him. Yes it is, yes it is! second the motion and look forward to the coming chapters, the pumpkins and the scarecrows, the first snowfall and, OH MY GOD, the holidays, just shoot me now, the holidays. The shopping and wrapping and cooking and.... I Stafford. Mary Becelia lives with her family in southern actually happened yet. We scheduled it for mid- late August to avoid conflict with swim team events and thus the final report is not yet in. But so far, I've already managed to work myself into a tizzy worrying about care for our pets and plants while we are gone, purchasing new luggage, what to pack in said luggage for a 12-day trip to the northwest, what fun tricks TSA has in store for us and much, much more. Oh yes, I am a joy to travel with that's for sure. Just ask my husband, who has already declared this our last family vacation. So summer has wrapped; taken a bow and exited stage left, but chlorine still wafts faintly in the air and there is a little sand in the back of the mini-van. The photos need to be uploaded and scrapbooks updated, but the nights are (finally) getting cooler and soon the big yellow school bus will appear in the neighborhood. "It's the most wonderful time of the year," the

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