Friday, June 3, 2016

How We Summer (this week...)

The "Summer" lodged in my childhood memory looks like skinny, tanned legs stretched out on a damp towel. It smells like cut grass and a bushel of peaches. It sounds like the thrum of boredom. It feels like freedom - like getting groceries at 10 pm to escape the heat then lingering in the frozen foods aisle.

I close my eyes and I'm there. It's dusk. The chicken patties are frying in the skillet. There is dirt under my fingernails and chlorine in my hair. The box fan whirs and I scoot closer, talking to its blades as I would a friend, my words bending in the middle, dipping down and zipping out the other side, robotic.

I don't know what my kids will remember, but I know they're busy creating the summer scent of their own youth, the one they'll carry with them, wishing hard that they could somehow recreate it for their own kids.

We're only three days into our break, but this one already feels distinctly different. The air smells like 1986, and honestly, I don't remember it ever feeling this way before.

It's a complex mixture of several different things - my kids are growing, they're more portable and chill than ever before, which makes a huge difference. Sometimes you only have the guts to look hard at the past once you know you've survived it. We lived a long stretch of half-lived summers. There was so much change, too many low-grade anxieties piled up into big ones. We were in lock-down mode, still clawing for fun, but not expecting to reach it, most days.

Well, things are different now.

Over the past year, while they were all at school working, I was working here at home. I wrote a book, did some traveling and speaking, remained engaged in my local community, and kept this little blog trucking. I filled the hours and they filled theirs. Now, something inside me is waking up to adventure and long days lazing. We all need a break. We're cutting ourselves some slack and it already feels pretty dang sweet.

It feels more than a little presumptuous to hop in here and proclaim that this will be "The Best Summer Ever!" or that I've finally figured something out or even that I have a plan. In an attempt to offset any potential "I'm an expert" vibe this post might accidentally emanate, I'll tell you this: Tuesday morning, our first "real" summer vacation morning, one of my kids dropped a bowl of oatmeal on the floor, refused to take responsibility, balked about cleaning it up (mind you, my halo was still basically in place through all of this nonsense), then demanded a new bowl while there was still slime crusting into the cracks of the kitchen floor. So I basically lost it. We were all saved from my true emotions by the men working in our basement, but I threw the bowl in the sink (with some force,) retreated to my bedroom, and "closed" the door. This, all before 9 a.m.

I'm not awesome at schedules and I quit playing like a pre-school teacher when my kids quit pre-school. We roll a bit loose around here, which I know is not for everyone. I have friends who handle summer with more serenity and infinitely more glitter. We are all doing our best, leveraging our own sanity against theirs, hoping the breeze and the sun and all of the ice cream cones align in a way that makes summertime a thing worth remembering. There's no right way, and if there were, I'm confident mine wouldn't be it.

My life as a mom is a constant push and pull between what I would prefer and what they need. The introvert struggle is real right about now.

(I'm on the right, minding my own business, trying to read this super fun book. Silas took note that I was trying to have a quiet moment and rescued me from it by way of a survey on what all I have planted in the yard recently. "How about trees? Any trees?" This is to illustrate how close my boys are to me at all times. Calvin is hardly in any photos because he's always practically sitting on top of me.)

Nevertheless, here's how our Summer is shaping up so far. I retain the right to scrap it all next week if I deem it necessary.

Mornings:
I sleep until 8 or 8:30. Or 9. (cough cough)
Guys, I've put in my time and I HAVE FINALLY ARRIVED! You know I'm not a morning person. Just let me have this one. Two of my kiddos wake up around 7:00 and the other around 8:00. They watch TV every morning because it buys me ^the above^, but we've already had to institute a rule that the TV can't be turned on until 7:30 because there were rumblings of people trying to wake up first just so they could wield control of the remote. (When do tweens start sleeping in? WHEN? I'm asking for myself.)

After I straggle out of bed, we eat. The kids don't need help with this so sometimes they eat before I'm up. I'm basically living the dream over here. And for inquiring minds, I always have a piping hot mug of black tea and then something easy - oatmeal/toast/cereal. Calvin likes to make eggs. Ruby and Silas would eat cereal three meals a day if allowed.

Whenever possible, we enjoy a pretty slow start to our day.

We're trying to get out and exercise a few times a week (says the girl who's in week ONE of vacation). We head to the pond across town somewhere during late morning and do a lap. I walk, they ride bikes.

Afternoon:
Lunch is a definite occasion around here, though it's comparable to every other hour of the day because my kids never stop claiming to be hungry. And now, a short story: we all got groceries on Tuesday and I bought: 1 bag of apples, 8 mangoes, a box of cherries, a box of strawberries, a box of blackberries, a bag of nectarines, and a melon. Most of it is gone already (two days later!) and it makes me angsty. But also happy because FRUIT!!! I'm so glad my kids eat it and I'm grateful we have access to it and can afford it.

(Silas and Ruby made this with no help or advice from me. I heard raucous laughing and went out to find this, along with a hatchet and a box of nails in the yard.)

After lunch, Si and Ruby prowl around outside looking forlorn until the neighbors come out and save their emotional lives. When no other options exist, they are also capable of saving each other. They two of them are creative, energetic, and fun. They play well together. Calvin is more "indoorsy" like his mom, but we are trying.

A word about screen time: I LOVE IT.
Not to brag, but my kids might get more of it than yours do. I'm comfortable with that, though I might be biased since I spent untold hours of my youth sitting too close to the black and white television that sat on a little TV tray in the corner. We have never owned a video gaming system and we have just one TV. My kids constantly feel technologically deprived and we don't really have anything "cool", including cable or satellite TV. But they each have a Kindle and they usually get an hour a day on it. If I have work to do, all bets are off and it might be two hours. {Currently, Calvin and Ruby are on their Kindles and Silas is watching Frozen because he has strong, mostly positive feelings about Elsa's braid.}

WARNING: I don't have a rule about reading before screen time.
My logic: Why would I want to send the message that reading is less fun than screens? Why make it seem like a chore when it's totally fun, relaxing, and an awesome way to fill the hours? I have two kids who read every single day and one who would rather eat boogers (literally). We're a work in progress.

Sometime during the day we have work to do, as in actual chores, and during this time of the day everyone hates everything about everything. I don't remember loving chores as a kid, so I try not to sweat it. But man, entitlement and disgruntled attitudes really bum me out. You don't have to be happy about the work, but keep your seething to yourself.

Evenings:
Dinner.
Ice Cream.
Bike Rides.
Yard Work.
Gallivanting.
Neighboring. (We have spent more time with our neighbors this week than in the past 10 months combined.)

Bedtime:
8 for Silas.
8:30-9 for the other two (we have graduated past the early bedtime phase and it makes me sad.)
Midnight for Cory and I because we haven't mastered being adults yet.

I'm currently trying to adjust to have no space whatsoever (this is the first time I've cracked open the laptop in about a week) and we're all trying to find our new groove. Basically, my every-minute feels like a real life photobomb.


But today as I rounded the shoulder of the pond during our super-consistent "exercise time", gratitude washed right over me. I'm so thankful for all of this. It's not normal for a mom to be able to ignore life for two months and hang out with her kids without a care in the world. It's an extreme privilege and I don't just mean that in the respectful, good-mannered, "what a privilege" sort of way. I mean it in the, "most of my neighbors have it so much harder" way.

The sun on my face, wind in my unwashed hair, my kids lapping me on their bikes, high-fiving me as they zoomed past, it was so clear. I don't want to take this for granted.

The months are short and the heat bakes it all permanently into our hearts and cerebral cortexes. Summer is the sweet spot, so we might as well act like it.