Category Archives: Surviving Summer Funtimes

Promises Made, Promises Kept

“It’s so slow. It’s always so slow.

I recognize this person, even though I’ve never seen her before. She’s harried. She’s got too much to do and this particular task probably took longer than she’d anticipated. Now she’s stuck in a pokey checkout line here at a local craft store.

I can feel this poor woman’s rage and helplessness and her to-do list beating out of her chest. I get it. We all do.

It’s the first week of September, and whether you’re a parent celebrating some extra time, or you’re a parent saddened by the end of summer, or you don’t even have kids, this week marks the return of Hurry Up and Get It Done. No more Flex Fridays. No more lazing. Work and school have been waiting impatiently for the day after Labor Day to unload all the things we need to do immediately. 

There is a sense that if we do not get organized, we will be chasing after our own lives until winter break.

Not-so-much-a-spoiler-alert: we will never get things completely under control.

Wednesday was the second day of school. We’re all unmoored, exhausted from new routines, and expending excessive amounts of emotional and physical energy figuring out and living the New Regular.

My daughter started kindergarten and has been understandably needing extra nurturing at home. Her kindergarten eases the kids into a long day by starting the year having the students attend for a few hours, then after a few weeks, they add another hour, then another. Right now, there are almost four hours a day it is just me and her, before her brothers come home. She needs and wants my attention, and I force myself to put away my list of All the Things I Wanted to Do Once School Started.

For a week, I’ve been promising to take her to the craft store to find some after-school before-brothers-come-home activities. It was about the last thing I wanted to do between meetings, deadlines, and the ever-growing piles of laundry that similarly begged for my attention.

Then there’s that exhaustion thing that never seems to fully disappear, the sum of running around, absorbing all the nervous energy of the house, plus too many nights of poor sleep.

Unsurprisingly, we spent a happy hour there wandering the shelves, picking out stickers and barrette-making kits. Still, it took effort to stay focused on being with my daughter, being there, holding space as she  processed all the new in her world. I just wanted to zone out and stare at Washi tape for awhile.

Later. Always later.

We wound our way to checkout line after  45 minutes of giggling and smelling scented candles and avoiding the scary Halloween aisles. There’d been some yesses (stickers!) and some nos (happy cloud rainbow pillow), and a lot of marveling.

We were both ready to go, and we waited out the customers ahead of us. Checking out is never a fast process at this particular store, and there were some customers who had coupons, some who had questions, and others who were genetically part-sloth.

My daughter kept asking for candy (no), then tried to convince me the that Cheez-Its in the candy display are not candy (true) and could she have some (no). We looked at the wreaths hanging on the wall. We told terrible jokes to each other. She booped my nose a few times and each time I made a sound just to get her to laugh and distract her from her own exhaustion.

So, yes, it was slow. While my heart beat in rhythm with the woman huffing and puffing behind me, I could not take in her stress, because mine is at peak right now. I didn’t want to commiserate. I didn’t want to bond. I just wanted to practice patience. I smiled as sympathetically at her as I could and turned back to my daughter, who brought my attention to the erasers shaped like lollipops.

“Have you ever seen anything like that?” she marveled, and I loved her so at that moment.

Spent — utterly, totally, bone-achingly spent — we finally got called over to Register 5. It was only after I put our little items on the counter that I realized I’d left my wallet at home.

I rarely remove my wallet from my purse and had only done so earlier in order to order some groceries online, a desperate effort to gain some control in my life, to steal a few precious moments, to perhaps sit a little bit.

Backfire.

“I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten my wallet.”

The cashier, also overwhelmed, looked over all the items on the counter. “Ok.” She started moving the items to a different cart.

“I’m so sorry. We can put them back.” I glanced at my daughter, whose little brows knit, and I squeezed her little hand to let her know I would explain in a moment.

“That’s ok. Next customer to Register 5. Next customer to Register 5.” And with that, we were dismissed.

“What’s going on?” my daughter asked. “Are we getting our stuff?”

I steered the cart out the door. “No, baby. I forgot my wallet, which means I don’t have any way to pay.”

My tears stung hot, not because of the wallet, not because my daughter didn’t get a $5 crafting kit, but because I knew I was on overload. Too many meetings, too many worries, too many obligations, too many calendar spaces filling up too quickly, too many tears wiped, too many “this will just take a second” items.

“You ok, Mama?”

Was I? No. I was split open, flattened, put to the fire.

“Yeah, baby. I’m just…spatchcocked.”

She started laughing, having never heard that fabulous word with all of its hard consonants.

I laughed.

“We had fun, didn’t we?” I asked her as we sped home to make sure we were home in time to greet her brothers after school.

 

Epilogue: I went back to the craft store alone that evening but to undertake my weekly Artist Date — an essential part of living a creative life that is all-too-often the first thing I cancel when life gets busy. I stared endlessly at Washi Tape. I did not zip through the aisles as fast as possible. I recreated our morning, putting the items we had delighted in into the cart, plus a few small things for myself. It was a peaceful rewind.
30 minutes I left the store refreshed and re-energized. I looked up to see this:

It was a symbol of a promise of a different sort — one from myself to myself.

Surviving Summer Fun Times Week 7– Game of Groans

Our kids’ camps ended this week, officially launching us into the “Camp Mom” part of summer. Welcome to Camp Mom. Our slogan is, “You see that door? It leads to a magical place called Outside. Try it. It’s like Narnia without the Turkish Delight.” Our sigil is a screen with a red line through it on a blue raspberry-syrup colored field. Our main battle strategy, perfected by the children, is to incessantly ask for snacks until opposing forces surrender.

Last days of camp are rarely the completely special moments we’d like them to be. One child forgot all of his food (2 snacks and a lunch) for his 7 hour day in class– thank goodness his brother shared, as did some of his lovely classmates. Strangers no more. I don’t think you can be a stranger once you’ve shared your snack cakes. Or kale. Or whatever good parents pack in lunches these days.

Despite this, we enjoyed their “Expo” – the final hours of camp where we get to see where our tuition money went this week, praying that they weren’t just playing Minecraft all day. And they weren’t. What a treat to watch the boys guide us through a technological world that is foreign and alien to us, but to them is home. But with great power comes great ability to maintain long monologues about the games they designed. I believe that they are still mid-sentences about it, some six days later.

Speaking of inauspicious endings, my daughter managed to fall into a puddle on the last day of camp. This undid her for a while, and she was completely disinterested in hearing my belief that her clumsiness is a confirmation that she is my child. She also was not interested in hearing, “Yeah, I’ve done that, too” when she biffed off her scooter yesterday. Road rash. It ain’t for sissies. Thank goodness we have so many Band-Aids.

The day after camp ended, the kids “slept in,” meaning they woke at 7:02. One twin decided to make super-secret pancakes like he was a contestant on a cooking competition, but considering he was asking where I keep every single ingredient, it didn’t take long to figure out it was going to be a fairly tame white chocolate and raspberry pancake batter. I relieved he didn’t go full Chopped and add some spotted dick or broccoli rabe. I’m counting this as “someone else made breakfast,” but I was kept grounded by the fact that he used every dish in the house and I was on clean up duty.

Fell asleep on the couch the other night and woke to the sound of a pitcher of water pouring on our new rug at about 1:30. I opened my eyes to see the dog peeing on the rug, which is really frustrating because most of the house is not carpeted so I’m not sure why he’s choosing the rug (and choosing the part of the rug right next to me). Usually he wakes me up if he has an emergency evening bladder/colon situation either by barking mildly or by nudging my hand or arm with his nose.

I got up to clean it and saw by the front door that apparently my dog has stock in Metamucil or Activia or Starbucks.

I ended up dragging the front hall mat (his inside pooping ground of choice) outside and pulling a Scarlett O’Hara – promising I’d deal with it tomorrow, most likely by asking my husband to hose down the mat and the dog.

My focus returned to the rug. Here’s the thing, though, I couldn’t find where he had peed. It’s a fluffy and apparently super absorbent rug. I tentatively touched at the rug, first with a big toe, then, as I was coming up dry, on hands and knees, slapping at the ground. No luck. It was the worst kind of magic – a completely dry rug, but not one made of charcoal. The strong ammonia scent was not exactly Glade-worthy, so I sprayed the rug with a cleanser that claims to rid rugs of pet odors, obviously never having met the stink bomb that is my dog.

Full of the type of joy that toe-tapping for dog pee in the wee hours of the morning can bring, it took about two hours to get back to sleep. At 6:30, my daughter awoke crying. I always think of that is some sort of warning sign that she’s going to throw up, because every time she throws up she cries beforehand. In full panic, I ran to her room only to find she’d had a bad dream. I lay down with her hoping to wring a few more minutes of probably fitful sleep, but the thought of poor sleep with my daughter’s hair up my nose was preferable to her being…oh, yes, there it was. She was wide awake, happy as a clam, and ready to meet the day full force.

Sleep deprivation is the Ramsay Bolton of my life.

I finally finished my daughter’s blanket which ended up being a color scheme I can only call Fever Dream.

I just got this yarn, and it’s time to knit something for me.

Because winter is here.

Surviving Summer FunTimes Week 6 — I’m Loving It, but Don’t Quote Me On That

Happy Back to School Week! Haha. Just kidding. There are 6000 more weeks of summer vacation.

 

Something smells. Seriously, in my house, something smells. I get little wafts of it every so often and then it dissipates so quickly I can’t find it. It’s not quite as bad as my dog’s odor, which usually smells like he ate something so terrible that he emits gas from the center of Hell. But it doesn’t smell like rotting food. It kind of smells like a melting crayon covered in mold that’s been jammed in the heating vents — which makes no sense because right now we’re running AC. My husband was kind enough to suggest we might have a dead animal somewhere in the house so I may have to set the place on fire.


The kids asked for a day off from camp, and I agreed on the condition that the only television we watch would be shows I want to see. We watched Iron Chef and the ingredient was Wahoo. The kids were completely and hilariously repulsed by the whole thing. They learned a valuable lesson: never ask to stay home again.

That evening, the boys put out cheese and crackers as appetizers. Nicely plated, too. Not sure if they were inspired by Alton Brown or just trying to get at some pre-dinner noshing in a very clever way. Either way, it worked. The only problem is all the children loaded up on Triscuits, Laughing Cows, and a questionable plop of hummus, so the nice dinner I made became the slightly less nice lunch the next day.

I asked my daughter, “Do you want to help me make brownies tomorrow?” She looked at me, eyes wide.

“It is my duty,” she said.

Every so often, I feel I’m doing something right.


Figured out what the smell was. It’s the kids’ paint, made by a popular crayon company. I wasn’t completely off when I said it was a combination of dead animal and crayons. But all art projects made with that paint were photographed then tossed.

There is probably some analogy about creation/death (smells) but I’m too woozy to figure it out.


The boys finished their “regular” camp and began a week of coding classes. My husband came home from dropping them off and reported that the boys did not want to have their dad walk them into class.

While the boys were at class, I took my daughter to the local children’s museum for the first time. I’ve been avoiding it because I remember taking the boys there and being exhausted, but then I realized (a) she’s starting kindergarten in a few weeks and we won’t have the same amount of time together and (b) she’s not twins. We spent hours playing and exploring, despite the fact that she’s probably a little too old for the place. Fortunately, she’s not too old to hold my hand while we wander around.

These are the moments that grab a small awl and bore time-passing holes in my heart. And I realized I actually enjoy having my kids home for the summer.  It’s going to be hard for me in September when they go back. Now, feel free to repeat that back to me in a week when I am saying I’m going nuts from all the bickering and the fighting and the permanent state of snacking they all seem to be in. But for now, I am enjoying them very much.