We are still deeply in the throes of summer at our house, so it's hard for me to fathom that in less than one short week both Madeleine and Carter will be back in school every day, getting back to our fall routine.
This summer was a sweet one in our house. It was the first year we made a serious commitment to vacation, camp and childcare and wow! what a difference that made. I was no longer the crazed, stressed out work-at-home mother who can't get any work done. They were no longer the whining, frustrated, neglected children who can't figure out how to have fun. This simple structure--a regular morning babysitter, somewhat normal work hours for me and plans to look forward to on the calendar--worked magic for all of us. I had to make a big trip mid-summer for my work, but they had a fun beach week with dad and some fun daily outings with me when I got back. I think everyone got what they needed.
This summer also marks some significant passages. Madeleine is on her way to middle school this fall. She spent far less time with her dolls this summer and much more with her nail polish and music. Carter is no longer my sweet baby faced boy. Yesterday I discovered a pre-adolescent pimple on his face. I suspect I'll be chasing him into the shower nightly soon in hopes of fending off that sweaty big boy odor that is right around the corner. My kids are growing up fast; neither one looks like a little kid in the pictures anymore.
I've never been one to mourn my children growing older. I'm hopeful for the changes in their lives. I'm excited for their futures and eager to see who they will become and what choices they will make as their paths unfold. But this week, I have to say, I'm looking at them both and feeling a bit wistful. I have loved being the mother of little children, and I'll miss the days when they were less independent and more full of wonder for the newness of the world.
How about you? What stages are passing for your kids along with the end of summer? What's there to cherish in these days that is sure to be a distant memory when fall leaves come along?
Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of our time together as a family in Ocean City, New Jersey. I don't remember how often we went or if there were any actual traditions that we habitually honored, but it hardly matters now. The images in my mind are vivid, and they are as dear to me as the stories themselves.
- The way the sand and sky looked as my father threw me up into the air, over and over again.
- Digging for sand crabs with my cousins by the shore.
- Watching my mother push the stroller back and forth with one hand while playing Pac Man in the boardwalk arcade with the other.
- The wind at the top of the giant slide and the flutter in my stomach as you fly all the way down.
- The warmth of the late afternoon sun as we made mud pies.
- The feel of the sand heavy on my arms and legs as we took turns burying each other in the sand.
- My father painting little scenes on the inside of a clam shell after we came in for the night.
- Feeding seagulls out of bags of old bread.
- The smell of the salt air as we crossed the bridge to go home.
What do you remember about your childhood summers? What tiny piece of that goodness can you bring into the memories you are creating for your kids? I'd love to hear your fondest memories in the comments below.
"Remember Tristan, mom? From my preschool? He was so handsome." Lucy said as if this old love and preschool friend is now gone forever. She asks about school and various friends at least twice a day. Because we practically have our very own preschool in our family, I have to admit I haven't been very good at keeping up over the summer. The boys always had each other and never seemed to mind, but this girl of mine, she is a social little bug. It's hard for kids to understand that something they loved just stopped altogether, even if summer is distractingly fun.
We decided that maybe it was important to keep in touch as a reminder that friendships don't have to end even if we can't see and play with each other every day. Here are a few ideas to keep the school connections alive through out the summer.
Send a letter. Everyone loves to get mail, it's even better when there are stickers involved. Spend an afternoon making cards for various friends and teachers your child misses, take a trip to the post office and let her put the mail in the slot. Create a summer pen pal exchange. It will give your little one something to look forward to.
Make a friendship bracelet. Friendship bracelets are back, big time and even better than when we were kids. Our own Vickie Howell has a great tutorial of how to make them here. Younger kids can always use beads or dyed pasta to make something special for their missed friend.
Meet me on the playground. Schedule a playdate where it all began and is familiar. Lucy and her friends spent hours on the tire swing, it was the go-to on the playground. Grab some watermelon, sit in the shade and let the kids catch up together.
Make a memory book. Lucy's teacher put together a slide show of pictures from the school year on a DVD for the kids. She loves it and asks to watch it almost every day. You can take your own pictures and put together a small photo album with pictures and artwork for your child to flip through during a quiet time each day. Lucy ends up telling me stories of all the things she did and all she loved about her time at school.
Have an adventure together. Invite another family to join you in making a new memory outside of school. We are going camping with a family from Lucy's school later this summer. Family potlucks or a day hike may be good ways to connect, especially if you aren't ready to travel together.
Cultivating and maintaining friendships are important and great ways to teach kids to value those they care about beyond the stages of life they are in together. Truth be told, all this friend talk is inspiring me to pick up the phone and reconnect with those I've lost over the years.
Do your kids miss their friends from school? How do you help your kids maintain friendships over the summer? Share your ideas in the comments.
Just twenty-four hours into the long weekend, the kids were starting to come unglued looking for something to do. This is not a good sign for us, since summer is long and camp is pretty expensive. After a painful hour of going back and forth trying to find something--anything!--both kids liked to do, we decided to go back to one of the old neighborhoods where we first lived when we moved to the metro DC area.
We made this momentous cross-country move from Florida to Maryland when Madeleine was three and Carter was still a baby, and this first neighborhood in a little wooded glen was our stomping ground for almost four years. Four years is a good little chunk of your children's lives. Carter learned to walk in that house. Madeleine learned to read. They were the years of the most intense parenting--the years of sleepless nights, too much crying and the most mess. Let me just say so much of it is burned into my memory forever.
My kids, however, can barely pull it into focus. As we walked down the old path to the park with the little creek where they played daily, I reminisced about this old memory (remember how much you loved that queen's cape?) or that one (remember that game we used to play on the swings?) Both kids looked back blank. These rituals of love I had lovingly carried out over their toddler and preschool years (in the midst of the crying and the mess) weren't registering one bit.
It wasn't that they didn't remember living in the house--they did! They just remembered other things. Like the time the mat on the front porch was infested with ants (really?) or the time I let one kid pee behind a tree in the park because said child didn't think it was possible to make it back in time. And about a hundred other inconsequential (to me) or horrifying things like that.
No one had any recall of the elaborate unbirthdays or the adorable twig broom we made with a thousand twigs we collected by hand after reading The Boxcar Children out loud. No one remembered the Andy Goldsworthy inspired sculptures we made in the creek or the hundreds of buttercup bouquets.
The old me would have been devastated, but one full year of wandering around the world later, I think I get it. All those little things I did as the mother of little children really mattered and profoundly shaped my kids, whether they remember them or not. My error (if you can even call it that) was not in pouring my heart out for them, but in not telling them the story of how much they delighted me one princess drama or stick sword fight at a time--long after the capes and sticks were gone.
Standing in the riverbed as we took turns heaving giant rocks into the deep parts hoping to make the loudest "kerplunk", I regaled them with stories--true, real life stories about their growing up years and how hilarious they were and how smart and how loving. They listened like it was brand new news and were as delighted to hear the story of living in that house as I was delighted to tell them.
So here's my challenge, supersisters (and brothers!) What memories from your kids earliest years stand out the most in your mind? Which impressions are most important and dear to you? What do you want them to remember? Check in with your mini-historians and cross-check. And if your story is missing from the archive, start telling it over and over again.
I'm thinking our stories, perhaps more than even their memories, will shape our kids for years and years to come. Do you agree?
Today is the last day of summer. For those of you reading this with children who have been in school for the last three weeks, I don't know what to tell you. Your school district is crazy. Or awesome. Yes, awesome. But for the rest of the kids, tomorrow is the big day.
My neighbor tried in vain to contain her glee that her youngest was going to all-day kindergarten tomorrow for the very first time. "She's really ready to go!" I contained my laughter as I saw in mom's eyes that she was ready for her baby girl to grow up, if only to have her days back to herself. I nodded in agreement that her big girl was ready and I did an invisible high-five to her mother when the kids weren't looking.
My kids know it's the last day of summer because the local pool closes today. We only went once this year (on Saturday) but they know that summer is over when the pool closes. Thank heavens for all of our dear friends who have pools and are willing to put up with the pirates and the screaming and are willing to dig the kids out when they inadvertently fall in fully-clothed. And have pools that won't close for at least another month. I don't think we are quite ready for summer to end yet.
Join us tonight for Guerrilla Goodness, 1st day of school style.
Photo by the greatest playdate yenta (and dear friend) Kimberly.
The school supplies are back in the stores, it feels like the time on summer is winding down. Before long we'll be packing lunches and backpacks, rushing out the door. I try not to mention this too much as we wish it could stay summer forever over here.
Are you ready for summer to be done at your house? Have you started the earlier bedtimes yet? Or do you soak in every last minute?
If school is on your brain, check out this awesome guide to all things about going to school. It's especially great if you have a first timer.
We had our tent exactly ten years before it ever made its way out of the box onto a real campground. The first time we camped, Carter spent the entire time looking like this:
While the rest of us responded like this while he complained and cried ALL DAY long:
It was no fun, let me tell you.
Two years later, I'm happy to report, we recently had a very positive camping experience that I'd love to share, but before I do, I'd love to know how camping works with your family. Did you grow up in a camping family? Do all your kids like to camp, or do you, like me, have a wild card on your hands who's been known to fall apart when encountering anything new and potentially overwhelming?
Jack has been asking to pick cherries for over a year now. Cherries were perfect for him because it was a combination of his love of tree climbing and fruit. Picking is the one activity that proves to be lovely over and over again for our family.
Favorite quotes of the day:
Lucy- "This is love..." (comment about the mountains)
Jack- "You know, I'm thinking we should probably grow our own cherry tree because it would be better for the earth. Then we wouldn't have to come ALL the way out here and use our gas. Gas is bad for the earth you know...so don't spit out those seeds okay? we need them!"
What's happening over there? What are you guys doing this summer?
It is day two of summer. Are you going crazy yet? If you aren't, it is inevitable that at some point your kids will be bored and all up in your grill. Here are five tried and true activities to keep kids happy and get a few moments to yourself. Or maybe just make dinner.
1. Spray paint- I know, you are worried you are creating incredible future graffiti artists but you won't. I keep a couple cans of cheap bright paint around for very special occasions. Throw some newspaper, cardboard or an old sheet down in the back yard and let them at it. What to paint you ask?
Old cheap happy meal toys- check this out
Boxes to keep stuff in
Sculptures of recycled stuff- paper tubes, cereal boxes, egg cartons, etc.
Murals can be made on rolled kraft paper
I lay down the ground rules and let them do this pretty much unsupervised. The sheer excitement keeps everyone focused. I think it's something about the holding the big can and pressing down the nozzle at the same time.
If all of this makes you extremely nervous, or you are thinking I have completely lost my mind, substitute paint for silly string.
2. Water play- Grab an under the bed container and fill with an inch of water and cups. Use small paper cups and poke holes through the bottom. Throw a drop or two of food coloring in the bottom. Kids also love tiny plastic animals in the mix. Even older kids are still mesmerized by water play. Let kids get completely soaked, throw towels down. Feeling brave? Try shaving cream instead of water.
3. Clean something- Kids love to clean when there is way too much soap and even more water. Give toddlers a spray bottle and sponge. Let older kids wash the car.
4. Flip Video Fun- This awesome little video camera turns kids into instant film makers and artists. How to Lego videos, awesome skateboard tricks, intense Polly pocket dramas, stuffed animal comedies, all of it can be captured on these hand held wonders. The camera is surprisingly inexpensive and even easier to use.
5. Just Wanna Dance- When nothing else works, just stop. Throw on some music (Pandora rocks!), set the timer for 15 minutes, and shake, shake it! Sometimes a short burst of direct attention meets the need and allows everyone to move on to their own activities after. Surrender to connection works wonders and prevents bigger struggles later on.
Book breaks do the same trick if dancing just isn't your thing.
Do you have any tricks to keep kids busy at your place? What activities wow your crowd? Do tell in the comments.
Josiah has a knack for finding cool crafts from various places. The penny launcher has to be one of my boy's all time favorites and great for boredom blues. Here is what you'll need:
toilet or paper towel rolls
electrical tape or duct tape
a pen (Josiah insisted you need this to write your name on your launcher so you don't lose it)
Cut the balloon in two. Throw away the bottom half.
Place the top part of the cut balloon over one end of the paper towel roll.
Wrap the electrical tape around the tube to secure the balloon. Cover the entire roll.
Here's what it looks like when it is all finished.
Drop your penny in the bottom, pull back and let her fly!
Jack always likes to show me how much hot air he has after.
Pure launching joy!