Shifting gears for summer

As the school year ends, keeping children entertained becomes a top priority for parents.

June 17, 2005|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

Yoanna Moisides left work early to bake a strawberry pie with her son and daughter.

Pam Pahl put her kids straight to work selling produce from the family farm.

And Jane Page took her boys in search of a refrigerator box they could use to make a fort.

These mothers shared a mission yesterday: keeping their children occupied on the day after the last day of school.

Baltimore County's public schools let out Wednesday, Howard and Anne Arundel counties yesterday, transforming household routines overnight.

The arrival of summer brings different kinds of stresses for parents than those experienced during the school year, be it covering the cost of day care, fending off cabin fever, or saying goodbye to a child going to stay with extended family.

It can also bring different joys: a leisurely morning, a reason to travel, an excuse to scale back on work.

Around downtown Towson yesterday, families turned to an ice cream parlor, the farmers' market, the mall and a nook in a bookstore to provide entertainment.

For Moisides, a law professor at the University of Baltimore's Civil Advocacy Clinic, the juggling act between work and motherhood in the summer won't last long. Eleven-year-old Hassan, 8-year-old Nyari and 5-year-old Lazarus James leave for Tobago on Thursday to spend the summer with relatives there.

"Trying to get everybody in the right slot at the right camp is too much," Moisides, a Towson resident, says as she shops for strawberries with Hassan and Nyari at the farmers' market, on Allegheny Avenue next to the traffic circle. "It's a concern for all moms and all families around this time of year, what to do with the kids."

A few steps away, the four Pahl kids are packing up the strawberries, radishes and tomatoes at their mother's produce table, and planting the leftover wave petunias, bluebells and marigolds in a planter on the sidewalk.

Pam Pahl, a widow, longs for the end of school. Her two daughters, ages 18 and 15, and twin sons, age 10, are such a help to her as she struggles to run the family's 140-acre farm in western Baltimore County.

"I'm probably one of the only parents who doesn't look forward to school starting," she says.

In Tom Beaufelter Jr., count another.

A stay-at-home dad, Beaufelter reveled in sleeping until 8:30 yesterday, the first day he did not need to get 6-year-old Dori to first grade at Pot Spring Elementary in Timonium. He's looking forward to a summer at the pool with her, 4-year-old Michael and 1-year old Cara, and a family vacation to Michigan.

Dori is excited, too.

"We got to stay up until 9:30 and our usual bedtime is 8 o'clock," she says, all smiles after finishing mint chocolate chip ice cream in a kiddie cone at Moxley's Ice Cream Parlor.

And what was the family doing at such a late hour? Watching the animated movie Recess: School's Out.

By now, Robin Guerrier is an old pro at summer. Daughters Jasmine, 10, and Jessica, 6, attend the private Baltimore Junior Academy, where classes let out June 4. (Public schools in Baltimore will end Wednesday.)

At Barnes & Noble, Jasmine and Jessica and their grandmother, Jane Cox, are nestled beneath the Winnie the Pooh display. Keeping her voice to a whisper, Jessica is reading I Love My Papi! to Cox, while Jasmine reads A Very Lizzie Summer to herself.

"This is one of their favorite places to come, the bookstore and the library," Robin Guerrier says. "That's basically what they've been doing since school's been out. And McDonald's."

Next door at the Towson Town Center, Toria Edmonds has no time to start a summer routine with her daughter, 7-year-old Sydney Allen.

Yesterday they were buying sunscreen and munching pizza. Today they'll shop for summer clothes at the Lancaster, Pa., outlet malls, tomorrow they're going to Hershey Park, and Sunday they're leaving on a road trip to Georgia, where Sydney will spend a month with her aunt. After that comes day camp at the Towson YMCA and a vacation in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

It's a schedule that was months in the making.

"You think about it in December, January, February, March, so when they get out in June, it's etched in stone," Edmonds says. "You have to because you have to pay deposits for camp in January and February."

Jane Page, who does freelance video editing, schedules her assignments so she can take the summer off to spend with 10-year-old Elias and 8-year-old Jackson, classmates of Sydney Allen at Stoneleigh Elementary.

She'll take them to museums, volunteer with them at a food pantry, enlist the girls down the street to teach them how to ride a bike. And for a week, send them to farm camp in Ohio.

After yesterday's stop at the farmers' market, the Pages are off in search of a box suitable for a fort. The plan is to try Sears, then mine the neighbors' recycling.

"The key," Jane Page says, "is to keep them off the TV and the computer."

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