My love-hate relationship with Summer

Seems like I was just posting about our summer bucket list and bam! school starts tomorrow. Lucky for me, I did not blink…so I did not miss it in spite of the break-neck speed.

Summer is always such a paradox for me. (As are a lot of things…which is why I’m such a Whitman fan, I think, because his quote comes up in my head a lot and gets truer and truer every year: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”)

I LOVE the Summer. I love the freedom and the sleeping in and not making lunches and not seeing a backpack or a stack of papers for months. I love being in and out of the pool all day and watching sun-kissed boys lounge in their nearly-dry bathing suits while they insist that popcorn is acceptable for lunch – and I agree.

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I love that mealtimes sort of go away and we gather and eat when and if we feel like it. I love deciding, at the crack of 10am, that today we’ll go binge on video games and bad pizza and then we just go do that…because there is no schedule to consult or adjust.

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I love that my parents take the boys every Friday and do the coolest stuff: bat caves and zip lining and ropes courses and paddle boarding and movies and ice skating and roller skating and bouncy house fun.

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I love the lake trips and day drives and bowling/swimming playdates and mid-week sleepovers and pottery class and ALL.OF.IT.

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Every day with the boys I was aware how quickly this time will pass and that someday summers won’t look anything like this…and I’ll miss them terribly, I know. I felt so grateful to be able to be home with them so much and such a big part of their lazy Summer days.

And honestly, just reading that last paragraph I can feel the other side of the paradox fake barfing just like my boys do over such sappy sentiments. Because, also, I DO NOT love the Summer. I crave a routine and without one I can get listless and unproductive. The empty calendar pages loom for weeks and I feel the pressure to fill them, make them useful, don’t just sit around for 2.5 months, go, do, learn, inspire, engage, entertain…and then I feel exhausted and overwhelmed. DSC_0136I really, really miss school-night bedtime…when the boys are staying up late every day feels endless and like I don’t get any of my necessary “me” time. Going to work feels like a chore because I have to leave all the fun and schedule all the nannies and I get lazy about my own career – which is something I adore. And then I feel bad about not being a good grown-up. DSC_0021They watch too much TV and play too many videogames and at some point I just say “OK” because we’ve already done everything on the list for that day…so, why not? And the “nutrition” that comes with the summer – ha, who am I kidding? So then mom-guilt sets in. Also, I adore back-to-school shopping – really – and that only happens when Summer ends. And then there’s the fighting… don’t even get me started on the bickering and poking and picking and taunting and antagonizing that has been perfected this Summer. IMG_0963They worked at it as if their very lives depended on it, like an artist works his craft, like an athlete trains for his biggest feat… they honed their rivalry skills and nearly drove me nutty in the process. I planned days based on the sole purpose of separating them. I planned activities in which they wouldn’t see each other for hours. I sent them to their rooms and forbid them to look at one another. So there are just as many reasons that I do NOT love the Summer.

And because of all of that, I am full with contradictory melancholy and glee that today is the last day of the Summer.

DSC_0005We had our ritual end-of-summer camp night this weekend and I was a mess of emotions over it. First, we moved into a new neighborhood at the start of this Summer, so the new house is still showing us what treasures it holds…like being able to camp out, under dreamy stars amid a glorious, somehow-cool breeze at the end of August in Texas surrounded by deer without a single mosquito in sight…seriously, who knew that was even possible? We had a late, late swim and then dried off by the campfire and fell straight into the tent where Whitman laughed us to sleep with his “guess which animal I’m thinking of” game. (Which I would love to tell you about, but I don’t really understand it. He loves it and it makes us all crack up – that will have to do.) How could I want for anything like that to ever end? I felt sad and sentimental and incredibly blessed. DSC_0043

And in the morning, I was delighted at the thought, “OK, that’s the end of that…back to the real world we go. Thank goodness for regular bedtimes which will soon be back!” And I made breakfast and organized something and put things on a calendar and filled out first-day-of-school paperwork… so relieved to think this Summer craziness would all be over soon. Whew.

Then the boys began begging me to get in the pool for a morning swim… “Dad’s here, come on, it’s so nice and cool…come on mom, why won’t you??!! Huh? Why not? Come have fun with us!” And so, just to shut them up, and maybe also to prove that on rare occasions I can actually be as much fun as their father, I walked straight across the deck, still in pajamas mind you, and jumped right in. Their squeals of delight made me instantly miss the Summer again. DSC_0011

So, dear Summer, so long for now… I have loved and hated every minute of you. I will mourn your end at the crack of dawn while I’m making breakfast, buttoning buttons, packing fresh new backpacks, combing hair and supervising teeth brushing. I will mourn you when the boys sigh at my refusal to let them swim at 8:00pm because there’s still too much to do and it’s bedtime. I will mourn you when it’s my day off and I can’t steal away my children for an unscheduled day doing who-knows-what.

I will also delight in your passing at 8:17am when I’m alone in a silent house with no mouths to feed and no bickering to referee.  I’ll probably also do that again around noon, just because I can. Try not to take it personally.

Thank you, Summer – you’ve been the very best!

Bird seed ornaments

The summer is in more than full swing around here…in fact, I’m nearly motion sick from how quickly it is flying past. The boys and I did this little project this week and there were some questions and inquiries on Facebook, so I thought I would do a post.

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I used this recipe as a guideline, but definitely had to make more of it…we did it times five. That was enough for about 8-10 large cookie cutters.

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With some wax or parchment paper spread out, you set the cookie cutters on it and then fill them halfway with the bird seed mixture. Lay the ends of the pieces of string (we used kitchen twine) into the seed and then fill the rest of the way. Pack the seeds down as tightly as you can…and that’s it. Let them dry – ours took about 24 hours and I flipped them over once – and then they will pop right out of the cutters, ready to hang!

I’ll update this weekend with photos of bird enjoying their new feeders…

Invitations and Thank You Notes

Since several people have asked me about the recent birthday party invitations, I thought I’d just do a little post about them.

My recently-turned-five-year-old is obsessed with Batman. The Bat signal was pretty much our only option when it came to invitations. This is all just plain old card stock. I drew a Bat signal and cut it out and glued it to a yellow oval. Then I did that 36 more times. Who knew a pre-schooler would have so many people on his guest list?

The “envelopes” are also just card stock, cut into a square and folded in around the invitation…”sealed” by the Bat signal.

The invitation itself was just printed on plain paper and attached with stickers to card stock. My husband did all the clever wording…I’m more of a “When, Where, What” kind of gal. Thank goodness for him.

And the Thank You notes were exactly what they appear to be…photos of Batman expressing his gratitude on even more card stock with the hand-written note on the back. I’m a fan of all things hand-written. Also of thank you notes.

From this post you could have surmised several things:

1. I have an excess of card stock lying around and I’m looking for any excuse to use it up.

2. I designed the invitation before I realized how many I would have to make.

3. I miss arts and crafts from Kindergarten…and invent ways to make my son do them with me now.

4. There was not a single Batman party invitation to be found at any of the stores in which I shop.

Happy Hallmark Day!

Ahhhhhh, the joy of another holiday completely supported by commercialism and sugar. Isn’t that romantic?

I’m only sort of kidding.

This year I really wanted to send things with the boys to their classmates that did not include sugar. I mean, really, there will be enough of that, right?

So my almost-five-year-old (I can’t believe that!!) and I made bookmarks to go with his 3-D dinosaur Valentine’s Day cards. Nothing fancy, for sure, but it was a fun little project for us to work on this weekend.

Some red felt board cut into 2″x6″ rectangles…punch some holes…thread some ribbon…

…throw on some glittery foam stickers and haphazard handwriting in Sharpie ink…and there you have it!

He selected the stickers…which are red, white and blue stars…clearly meant for another holiday entirely, but what the heck.

And two of the book marks got a different kind of ribbon because sometimes I can’t add and I didn’t cut the cute XOXOXO ribbon into enough pieces. But if I wouldn’t have called it to anyone’s attention, it might have gone completely unnoticed.

And here’s what’s going to the almost-two-year-old’s classmates – color-your-own-monkey masks. Which I might have purchased just so I could watch him run around the house with one held up to his face while he makes the cutest monkey noises imaginable. Really, that whole no-sugar-thing is nice, but listening to his “ooh-ooh-aah-aahs” while he giggles behind a mask is hard to beat.

We also made some cookies for the teachers. With plenty of sugar, in case you were wondering.

That icing was more pink than it looks in these photos. But the icing job was certainly as messy as it appears in these photos. A decorator I am not. But we had fun making them anyway.

Best wishes to everyone for Valentine’s Day…be sure to tell those you love that you love them.  XOXOXO

Thanksgiving Wrap Up

Whew! What a beautiful day yesterday full of great food, family and glorious fall weather. There is so much for which we are thankful.

Before we turn our minds completely toward Christmas, I wanted to wrap up the Tree of Thanks and also share some fun photos from friends who made the turkey cupcakes!

Look! It's a rafter of turkeys! My friend Heather made these.

Periodically I will get interested in what the proper names are for groups of animals. You know, a “gaggle” of geese, a “pod” of whales, a “host” of sparrows and an “unkindness” of ravens…the list goes on and on. Turns out a group of turkeys can be called a “rafter” or a “gang.” Even though I tend to refer to any group of birds as a “herd” just because it sounds funny. Go ahead, say it. “A herd of turkeys.”

Here's another gang of turkeys made by Heather's sister. Heather forgot to mention the tails, obviously!

Thanks ladies for sharing your turkey photos with us!

And today I took down the Tree of Thanks. What fun we had filling out those little cards each night and hearing what our 4-year-old came up with to be grateful for.

Here it is completed...25 leaves each with 3 notes of gratitude. Lots of thanks to give.

Today when I took all the little notes out of their pockets and stored them away (I mean, really, how fun is it going to be to read those in about 20 years?) I read through them all again. I must admit I was surprised to see that my son had not listed any “stuff” in his thankful notes. There was one mention of his train bed – which was a labor of love by his dad and grandfather – and another mention of a new Spiderman book – which was a reward for really good behavior one weekend we were away. Otherwise there wasn’t a toy listed. Here are some of my favorites:

“I’m thankful for my toad, Fuego.” (There were notes for the cat and dog as well.)

“I’m thankful for the whole Earth.”

“I’m thankful for my baby and that he’s OK.” (This was after a trip to the ER with his little brother. We were all thankful for the same thing that night.)

“I’m thankful for my mommy’s good cooking.” (My husband swears that response was unprompted.)

“I’m thankful for Spanish class.”

“I’m thankful for a bike ride with daddy.”

“I’m thankful for God.”

I’m hoping that in this coming year I can see our life more like my son sees it. Grateful for the simplest things. The things I’ve long taken for granted.

And now, just four days until the advent-calendar-countdown begins…so I must go start untangling lights and find those stockings…

End of Summer

The summer doesn’t ever really end here in Texas. OK, well, maybe we get a little break in January or February sometime…and there’s a week we call “spring” and then it’s right back to summer again. But the kids are back in school and so, in that respect, summer has come to an end.

Our oldest just goes to preschool and, therefore, does not appreciate the significance of the summer vacation just yet. But that didn’t stop us from having a last-weekend-of-summer camping celebration.

Well for Heaven’s sakes, you didn’t think I meant actual camping OUTSIDE, did you??! It’s like 147° out there and the mosquitoes will just carry you right away.

And yes, there are two tents. One for our 4-year-old and one for us.

Except for the sleeping-all-night-on-the-floor part, it was pretty fun. We got some movies, got into our PJs early and piled onto the blankets and pillows. We even made s’mores. Living room camping was a big hit and might even be the start of some kind of new family tradition.

Yes, that tent is a giant giraffe and he loves it! My friend Erica, who is featured regularly on here, sent it to him for one of his birthdays and it remains a huge hit.

This little camp-in reminded me how simple it can be to create a fun family memory. I’m a planner and I’m detail-oriented and I like to be prepared for things. (Read: I’m a control-freak who over-thinks things.) And sometimes in my brain a fun family memory takes all this orchestrating and planning and set-up…which feels overwhelming and then I don’t do it. Our son thought this was so cool and couldn’t believe we were all going to sleep in the living room (I shared some of his disbelief about this fact!) And s’mores??!! At home? He was beside himself.

Interesting enough, once we got all settled in – he was glowing with our intentional togetherness that seemed fresh thanks to the tents – he didn’t care so much about the movie, he only ate part of one s’more and then asked several times when it was time to go to sleep.

Even though he had shared in our enthusiasm for planning it out, what he really wanted was the togetherness…the safety…the simple act of being with us without any other agenda.  As I watched him fall asleep just a few feet away from me, clutching Spiderman while inside his giant giraffe, I told myself to pay attention – to remember this lesson. We could have spent money and a lot of energy planning a “real” camping trip or some other labor-intensive memory-making orchestration that might have exhausted us and it wouldn’t have been any better as far as he was concerned. He just wanted us there, engaged with him, doing something a little out of the ordinary, a little whimsical. “You don’t always have to make it so hard,” I heard myself telling myself. I hope I was listening.