what i learned on my summer vacation

what i learned on my summer vacation

It’s officially back to school time for us. My big kid started today, and my little kid starts tomorrow. Second grade and preschool, respectfully. I kind of thought by the time I sat down to write this post it would be full of HALLELUJAHs and WOOHOOs, but you know what? It’s bittersweet.

Weird, I know.

I love school. I particularly love back to school. There are some kids who thrive in being away, being social and interactive outside the home, and my kids are those kids. I can plan fun summer activities every single day until I collapse (which is usually the case) but it’s always more fun when someone else does the planning. So you could say we’ve been ready for the first day of school since… the last day of school.

I started summer thinking that it would be awful. That despite our fun planned activities, our house would be a tornadic disaster (check), kids would complain about our fun planned activities (check), bedtimes would be a joke (check check) and I would generally hate summer (…not check).

I love my kids. I feel like that’s a necessary thing I should say. But I’m a full time stay-at-home-mom married to a doctor with a crazy schedule. …and I’m an introvert. To sum up: mama needs a break.

But I am premeditated, so I went into summer with lists and plans and dreams and goals. And yes, my house was a mess, and my kids complained, and bedtimes were insane, but we sucked the marrow out of summer. We swam, biked, ran, camped, played, snuggled, read, drew, fished, boated, watched movies, ate snacks, roasted marshmallows and hot dogs over a bonfire, had picnics, and, honestly, we had fun every day.

Don’t get me wrong: some days I wanted to rip my hair out. Some days I wanted to find that swear word book about going the BLEEP to sleep and read it with a ferocious intensity. Some days we watched more screen time than is recommended. Some days we stayed in pajamas all day.

If this doesn’t sum up summer in one photo though…

I think my problem with summer is that well, for one, I don’t like being hot. But for two, it’s an up close and personal reminder of how big my kids are getting. The first time we go to the pool, I’m reminded at how much better they can swim this year. The first time we mini golf, I’m blown away at how quickly they can sink the ball. I know these changes take place over the school year also — and to some extent, exclusively — but when we’re doing the same summer activities year after year, it’s like a real life time hop. I see them this year and I can see every year that came before. And it’s a lot for my heart to handle.

So I have decided, my new plan for summer vacation is to overdose on it. To continue to do ALL OF THE THINGS so that during the cold school year the memories of our fun can keep me warm.

But for now, I will leave the planning up to the teachers, I will trust others to protect and care for the hearts of mine that live outside of my body. I’m sitting in a quiet, clean house, drinking coffee and enjoying the quiet.

But also… I kind of miss the noise.

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how to survive your summer in 51 easy steps

1. Make a plan called “How to Have the Best Summer Ever!”

2. Realize on the second day of summer that your plan is garbage.

3. Make a new plan called “Our Carefree Summer!”

4. Don’t tell everyone that your new summer plan is actually called “Dear God help us I miss the structure.”

5. Send your three year old back to his room every morning at 6:00 am.

6. Purchase a fancy color-changing clock for your three year old that will glow green when he is allowed to leave his room in the morning.

7. Say “Stay in your room until your clock is green” every five minutes starting every morning at 6:00 am.

8. Coffee.

9. If June: buy expensive mineral sunscreen and have your children stand like statues while you slather it on like spackle.

10: If July (or mid to late June, whenever you crack): buy cheap spray sunscreen and mist in your child’s general direction. Ask them lovingly to “close eyes and pinch noses.”

11. Just come to terms with the fact that sand will be everywhere.

12. Cry a little bit when you see the first back-to-school display.

13. Cry a little harder when your six year old learns super soakers are a thing.

14. Wine.

15. Teach your kids that the “S Word” is “Snack,” and we do not swear.

16. Glance into your child’s room to see clothes and sand and toys and books and bedding everywhere. Then say a different kind of “S Word” and just shut that door. Shut the door.

17. Try not to look too excited when your kid says he’s tired. “Do you want to TAKE A NAP DO YOU WANT TO TAKE A NAP?” Nope, he’s good now.

18. Visit every park that’s ever existed. Pack every vegetable and cracker and fruit you’ve ever owned. Listen to children complain about being bored and hungry.

19. Attempt to put your child to bed when the sun is still very high in the sky.

20. Try to explain daylight savings time and end up crying and exclaiming that it really, truly is bedtime, no matter what it looks like outside.

21. More wine.

22. Curse the “young adults” next door who are being loudly unsupportive of your belief that it is, in fact, bedtime.

23. Send your kid back to his room.

24. Send your kid back to his room.

25. Send your kid back to his room.

26. Go to sleep.

27. Wake up; send your kid back to his room.

28. Make a mental note to research how tiny humans function with so little sleep. You never will, though. You’re too tired!

29. Buy school supplies far too early. Think about teachers. Mentally send them a fruity cocktail. They earned it, man.

30. Start planning activities that are an hour or two away, just for the air-conditioned kid-buckled driving time.

31. Watch your kid swim the entire length of the pool underwater, when last year he wouldn’t even go down the slide.

32. Realize that summers really go pretty fast, even if sometimes they seem kinda long.

33. Remember it’s your three year old’s last summer before he starts school — preschool, sure — but school nonetheless.

34. Watch your six year old ride a bike without training wheels, after summers of complete bike apathy.

35. Sit in the grass with your kids and catch fireflies long after they should be in bed.

36. Think “this summer thing isn’t so bad.”

37. Get up too early, stay up too late, overplan the warm July days you have left.

38. Vow to do the same when it’s August.

39. You’ll sleep when you’re dead, anyway.

40. (Or when school starts.)

41. (Or when daylight savings time FINALLY ENDS.)

42. Stop rolling your eyes when people say, “oh, they’re only young once.” Even though they’re actually young for like 12-18 years or however you want to gauge it.

43. I mean, they are only young once.

44. At least, they’re only six and three during summer once.

45. So decide to just “soak it all up.”

46. Except for the sand.

47. I mean, you’ll soak that up anyway without even trying.

48. Maybe invest in some industrial strength blackout curtains.

49. Buy lots of coffee and wine.

50. Embrace your summer fully.

(51. And pray for all of the teachers. Their time is coming. You know it, I know it, they know it; pray, just pray, just pray.)

Happy summer to all, and to all a good bedtime. (Or wine.)

let them be dads

Hi, moms.

This one’s specifically for you. But it isn’t about plans or hacks or solidarity. 

It’s about dads.

Moms, if you’re like me, you stay at home with your kids. I know a lot of you are like me, so maybe I’m speaking directly to you here. I’m going to drop a major truth bomb here. It’ll blow your mind. Get ready for it:

Dads are dads.

Dads are cool.

Did I just hear the sound of your mind exploding? I told you. Dads are like, a totally different thing. They aren’t moms. They aren’t you. But sometimes, when you see them wrestling on the floor with your kids, you might think, That’s too rough. That encourages violence. That’s NOT how we play.

And then, all well intentioned, you might say something like, “isn’t that getting a little rough? Let’s calm down, OK?”

Or – or or or –

Dad’s given you a night alone in the basement. Pre-kids this would sound like a weird torture horror movie thing, but post-kids, it’s heaven. You settle in with your wine and whatever show you’re binging and start to relax. Then you hear it — a THUD from above, a scream, the pitter patter of running feet, a naughty giggle. You sigh, put the wine down, and think I should help out up there. And so you do. The little one runs to you, and the big one cowers a bit and says “sorry.”

Or – or or or or –

On your way out the door for a long awaited girls night, you hug and kiss the kids over and over again and then you hand Dad a piece of paper with writing all over it. Is it a love note? A poem, perhaps? A rundown list of his very best qualities? No, it’s a list of reminders, more reminders than you would give the hired help, i.e. a BABYSITTER. “Don’t forget the kids love the cherry toothpaste and hate the strawberry toothpaste. The tubes look similar. Check them.” “Little likes his bedtime routine to go pjs, teeth (cherry toothpaste!), book, prayer, song, night-night hug, lights out.” “Don’t let Big talk you into letting him read longer! He’s been doing that lately. He needs his sleep.”

Now, moms. Please raise your hand quietly to yourself if any of the above scenarios has ever happened to you.

*Raises hand timidly inside the Biggby in which I am writing this post.*

It’s dad, keeping his boy safe from the big scary Dory (who promises candy but isn’t really delivering).

Look. My husband, the father of my children, is a quality human. He’s smart, funny, kind, and he’s a fantastic dad to our boys. He also happens to work a job that keeps him away from home quite a bit, so the day to day care of our boys falls mostly on me. I’m usually the one who knows why one of them is grumpy — I know who had a hard time getting to sleep, who might be developing a cold, and why the little one is constantly yelling “BADOONGY FACE!” (It’s from The Book with No Pictures, and if you don’t own it, you definitely should.)

And because I know these things, I assume I know our kids better.

And I realized, one evening, watching Boone (Big) and Jason (Dad) bond over The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker for far too long far too late in the evening… 

That I’m the mom.

And he’s the dad.

And I have to let him be the dad however he wants to be the dad. Sometimes I struggle with finding a balance with our personality-opposite boys. I feel like I should take what I’ve learned and share these things with my husband, instead of allowing him to figure it out on his own or, heaven forbid, find a completely new balance original to him. 

Moms, we can’t perpetuate this stereotype that dads are Tim Allen-style grunters and goofballs who pop in for a quick joke and spend the rest of their down time souping up the lawn mower. If you are lucky enough to be part of a two-parent home — and here I’m expressly talking to any kind of two parent home: two moms, two dads, mom and grandma, etc — you have been given the gift of live-in help. And a live-in perspective that differs from yours. 

When we stop the rough housing, rescue our kids when we’re supposed to be relaxing, or leave a list of reminders before we go anywhere, we’re basically saying to our partners, “I’m better at this than you.”

Teamwork = dream work, of course.

I, for one, don’t want to be better. I want us to be equals. Parenting is hard, and I don’t want to be the only one in charge all of the time. So, one more time for good measure:

Dads are dads.

Let them be.

the long con

If you’ve ever seen any heist movie ever, you’re likely familiar with the long con. Designed, as the name implies, for long term implementation, the “long con” is some form of deceit that sets up over month or years, truly earning the victim’s trust. Perhaps it’s the shifty troublemaker who superficially befriends an old wealthy woman, convincing her to leave all of worldly possessions to him when she inevitably passes away. Perhaps, in a nutshell, it’s parenting.

This is what parenting looks like.

Boone has all of the potential to be an amazing human adult someday. He’s kind, he’s smart, he’s funny. But right now, he’s also six. And stubborn. And strong-willed. And truly lacking in the focus department. We, as parents, fight battles with our kids everyday, and sometimes we forfeit. Kids refusing to wear pants? Hey, if we’re aren’t planning on leaving the house anyway; fine, go and be free. I’ve also been known to occasionally turn a blind eye (or ear) to the verbal explosion of potty words. The old saying is true: pick your battles.

But parents, sweet parents, you know as well as I do that we cannot constantly wave the white flag. 

A few weeks ago I was flying solo at church with my boys. My husband works a lot of weekends, so this isn’t particularly unusual. But on this Sunday, I was scheduled to sing with the praise band. Before I can continue, can I just say? I love singing with the praise band. I love adding harmonies to songs of praise and watching the congregation engage in the worship experience. But when I sing, I want to be fully present. And this Sunday a few weeks ago… I couldn’t be. Boone and Jonah ran around wildly while I tried to rehearse. I worried about them instead of letting the words of praise wash over my soul. When I could finally bring Jonah to his classroom, I thought things would improve. But instead, Boone continued to run around. To complain. To distract. I threatened to take away his screen time for the day — it made no impact. I tried to reason with him — to absolutely no avail. So I took away his beloved, newly purchased, hot-item-of-summer, the fidget spinner. I put it in my back pocket while he whined and protested. I was tempted to just give it back and say “fine, THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE, TAKE THE %$*#ING FIDGET SPINNER” (because I, a loving Christian mom, am not above swearing through clenched teeth in church, but Jesus loves me). But I didn’t. I left Boone with my friends who probably deserve a medal and I went on stage to sing.

This is what parenting looks like, too.

God… I prayed, this… sucks.

You won this one, He responded, so keep going.

I won?! I’m seriously worried Boone will rush the stage for the beloved fidget spinner while I’m trying to lead the church in worship. I do NOT feel like the winner here. 

He’s sitting with friends. They will watch him. I will watch him too. Just focus on me.

And this is when I realized the children aren’t raised in a day. Bad behaviors aren’t corrected once and then forever perfect. I stood on the stage and sang “Holy Spirit, you are welcome here,” but I knew the Holy Spirit was already present, watching over my moody kid. And when I sang the line “your glory, God, is what our hearts long for / to be overcome by your presence, Lord,” I was, completely, overcome. When I sat back down, I felt the fidget spinner in my back pocket. I understood that the long con of parenting is simply soldiering on, day after day, because children grow up. Through correction and discipline, even when we feel like they aren’t reachable, they learn. They absorb. It is our resposibility to keep aiming to win the battles we can, but also to realize that even when we cannot, parenting is a long game. 

We probably won’t see the final version of our kids, even if we watch them get married and start families of their own. We are all constantly adapting  and evolving, or we should be. But if we color whatever phase of parenting we are in with the thought that it is not a quick fix, I think we’ll realize the long game really is the way to go. 

Don’t let the hard days of parenting be the only ones you remember. Instead, see the difficult days as stepping stones in a part of the long con – the con to turn your crazy kids into tolerable human beings.

And this is also what parenting looks like.

You were a crazy kid once.

Somebody long-conned you good.

Pass it on.

a quick word to my summer sahms

Hi, SAHMs.

(Not-SAHMs please feel free to keep reading. I don’t want to alienate you. I just can’t claim to really know your experience, so I wouldn’t be so bold as to write you about it… ok great, thanks.)

SUMMER IS COMING, Y’ALL

It’s the end of May, ladies. You know what this means, right? It means, if you live near me, the end of the school is shockingly close. (If you live somewhere else, your child’s school year may already be done, and I’m sending you strength, mama.)
Look. I love my kids. Nothing in the whole world gives me greater pleasure than watching them laugh, successfully tie their shoes, paint an avant-garde masterpiece, or run toward me for a hug. These are the moments, friends… these are the moments we cherish.

We also love waving good-bye as the school bus carries them away for eight hours.

(Homeschooling SAHMS please know that I consider you to be heaven’s strongest angels, sent to earth for familial superiority. Rock on, gals.)

I’m in introvert-mom, and I used to feel guilt at having to “take a break” from the mom life I really and truly hold dear. There just comes a time in the day when my brain starts to shut down. No amount of sleep can stop the fatigue of people-ing from setting in, and it takes all I can do to keep from screaming “I CAN’T, I’M WASHING MY HAIR!” at the sweet bundles of life I helped create. During the school year, I do have a toddler at home, but when I feel the weight of the interactive world, I can put on a television show. I can declare it nap time. I can, occasionally, find some quiet play that the little one can do independently (in a perfect world, but every now and then, people surprise you). In the summer, I have two kids who want to do very different things at all times. 

(If you have more than two kids, LORD HAVE MERCY.)

The little wants to stick to an early, school-day schedule, and the big wants to sleep in and go a little slower. Between the two, the time for me dwindles, and each night I find myself collapsing into bed, equal parts physically and mentally exhausted. 

Are you there too? Are you anxious about the long, warm, routine-free days? Me too. I get it. So here is my promise to you: I will never, ever judge your social media. If it’s sunny and perfect outside and everyone’s posting pictures of the beach, but you post a picture of the blanket fort you made in your air-conditioning with the blinds shut and the lights off? I support you. If you cancel our play date because summer is wearing you out? Don’t even feel bad. If you send me stress-texts all day about how crazy everyone is? I’ll send you wine, virtual or physical, once your littles are asleep (and immediately before you are). In this summer, let’s support each other even if we all work on surviving in different ways. 

And, for you? The best gift you can give yourself is grace. Your summer may not be pinterest-perfect. You may find yourself tearing up a bit when the “Back to School” signs return to Target, and that’s OK

And remember, if you need a fellow in-trenches mom to vent and drink wine, I’m your girl.

Happy summer!

take the pictures, take them all

This is Jonah.

You may know Jonah from such posts as you are (2) going on (3) and everything i need to know i learned from my toddler. He’s a character. His birthday is coming up soon, and when a friend texted me to ask what he’s into, I replied “destruction, nudity, and spilling milk.” Because really, when it comes to interests, those are definitely in his top five. He also takes photos at a near-professional level. He can go from screaming about the milk he spilled to grinning a cheese-face with tears still in his eyes. He sees the camera, he performs.

This is Boone.

You may know Boone from such posts as the birthday boy, part 1 and your kid is a jerk (calm down). (I called him “John” in that post, but it’s Boone, it’s all Boone.) Boone just wants to make you laugh and, in turn, laugh himself. He’s a sweet little space cadet at the best of times, and at the craziest of times, he oscillates between a hyperactive half monkey/half frog – he’s spry, but also slippery – and an unmoving pet rock that repeatedly asks for snacks. All of this to say, he’s a great kid who has a wonderful smile — but we hardly ever see his true smile in photos. If you say to Boone, “smile for the picture!” welp, you never really know what you’re going to get.

The many faces of Boone. (And a rare not-camera-ready Jonah.)

I take a lot of pictures. And videos. And I post them on social media, for the world (or the world who cares).

I’ve read a lot of articles and opinions about “moms today.” Bunmi Latidan, one of my favorite tell-it-like-it-is mom-writers, summed it up pretty perfectly:

How To Be a Mom in 2017: Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional, and social needs are met while being careful not to overstimulate, understimulate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen-free, processed foods-free, GMO-free, negative energy-free, plastic-free, body positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two-story, multilingual home preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard and 1.5 siblings spaced at least two years apart for proper development also don’t forget the coconut oil.

How To Be A Mom In Literally Every Generation Before Ours: Feed them sometimes.

(This is why we’re crazy.)

Um, yes. Amen. This IS why we’re crazy, Bunmi. If you are a fan of funny moms in general, I do recommend checking out some of Bunmi’s hilarious books. Her newest novel, Confessions of a Domestic Failure, is out now and you can find it here here. (This is not an ad. I’m just a huge supporter of funny moms.)

But anyway; back to pictures. Every time we post a picture of our family lives, we open ourselves up to criticism. Even silent criticism – maybe especially silent criticism. We never know who will look at the picture and think “wow, I would never parent like that.” But we also may never know who will look at the pictures of our real life and say, “phew, solidarity” about our messy house, our kids running around in the clothes they picked themselves (that are woefully unmatched) and a smile that would make a mom roll her eyes on picture day. Take the pictures. Take them all. Share your real life with people. It doesn’t have to be online. Meet with a mom friend and tell her about the time when your Almost-three drew in sharpie marker all over your living room wall (Purell works great on that, by the way). Don’t worry if she’s going to ask you what you were doing when the mini-Picasso was creating. Don’t worry if she’ll ask you why the Almost-three could reach the sharpies. Just tell the story, embrace the realness, and wait for her to reciprocate with a tale of her own. If she doesn’t right away, that’s OK. She’ll know you can handle the messy reality of parenting. She’ll tuck that away.

We have smartphones. We have the ability to take thousands of digital pictures whenever we want. If we only take the perfectly posed photos with cute backdrops and forced smiles, we miss so much of our parenting journey. When our children are grown, when we watch them become parents, let’s pull out the pictures, the stories, the memories of real life – not the highlights reel.

Post the pictures that may paint you in a less-than-perfect light.

Tell the stories that don’t end with happily ever after.

Embrace the real, share the real, live the real.

i can’t live with or without you, kid shows

Love it or hate it, “screen time” has been a saving grace of moms since the TV got more than three channels. While I can’t say that I’m totally on board with leaving my child in front of a television indefinitely, some days are a little more… screen-y than others. We are just trying to make it, OK? Let us live.

IMG_6116
WHAT TIME IS IT? Screen time. Obviously.

Wherever you are on the screen time spectrum (ranging from “we only play quietly with sticks outside” – ps teach me your ways – to “ALL SHOWS ALL THE TIME”), I know you have strong opinions about television shows. Kid’s television shows, specifically. Maybe you like to relive your youth and present your children with old-school Sesame Street (Gordon forever) or The Magic School Bus. Maybe you turn on PBS and let it run all day (no judgements; and also, #savePBS). Maybe you allow your little ones five minutes of a nature documentary a day after they’ve exhausted themselves with all of the stick-playing (seriously, teach me your ways). But whatever path you choose, I know we can all agree on one thing:

Caillou is the worst.

This is not an unpopular opinion. Everybody hates Caillou. He’s probably the only thing that’s ever come out of Canada that makes everyone cringe. (Don’t worry, neighbors to the north, Poutine more than makes up for him.)

I’m not going to detail why Caillou’s the worst, OK? We all know. His voice is terrible. He’s on a perpetual path of destruction and constantly surprised that he ends up in trouble. In one episode, he decided to try olives and he liked the olives. Come on, C. Olives are gross.

(Sorry if you like olives, but that was the last straw for me.)

No, I’m here today to talk about the other kid’s shows that are ridiculously crazy weird. In no particular order, I present to you:

THE PREMEDITATED LIST OF CHILDREN’S SHOWS THAT ARE AWFUL (and one or two that don’t suck)

The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That

Truth: Martin Short (a Canadian; further proof that Canada mainly exports kids shows and gravy on French fries) is a genius. He can sing! He can do silly voices! He’s a delight.

Also the truth: This show has unsupervised kids regularly being asked by at best – an imaginary human-like feline or at worst – stranger in a cat costume – to go on adventures. The moms of this show are always cool with this, as long as the kids are home by mealtime. “Sure, kids! Go ahead and fly on a rocket ship to the moon with a creature I’ve never seen!” “Someone wants to zap you down to the size of ants so you can scurry around underground? Neat! Just be home in time for dinner!”

Really, moms? Really? You don’t have… any follow up Q’s, here?

And don’t even get me started on Thing 1 and Thing 2’s shenanigans. I’m pretty sure they’re personally responsible for my toddler’s destructive streak.

The Garfield Show

Truth: Garfield loves lasagna and hates Mondays, and that kind of shtick just doesn’t get old.

Also the truth: This show, found on Netflix, is not the Garfield of our youth, 90s kids. This is some 3-D CG weirdness that kind of feels like if a dollar store tries to sell a ripoff action figure and name it “BatGuy.” I can’t comment on the actual content very well as I am constantly distracted by the fact that Garfield sounds more like a lazy Jim Belushi than the monotone feline we loved in Garfield and Friends. (In fairness, I think the original Garfield voice-actor died, but I for one think casting could have found a closer match.)

Bubble Guppies

Truth: Kind of cute? I do appreciate how the show makes mermaids accessible to all genders.

Also the truth: I kid you not, these are the lyrics to the theme song – BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE GUPPY GUPPY GUPPIES…

I’m sorry but that is just inexcusable.

(And now for the ones that don’t suck!)

Octonauts

Truth: This British children’s show is actually cute AND educational.

Also the truth: Yes, there’s some annoying songs in there. And the moral dilemma of the half-animal, half-vegetable creatures deemed the “vegimals” who are kind of the Octonauts’ servants. But! This show actually teaches real things (like that Cone Snails are wicked scary) and it’s fun for mom and kids alike.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Truth: We still sing the “stop and go right away” potty song at my house. Regularly.

Also the truth: Sure, there are questions. How does trolley know where you’re going? What’s teacher Harriet’s deal? Does she have a family or does she live at the preschool? What does “ugga mugga” mean? Who cares. This show teaches awesome lessons and delivers them with catchy songs you can sing to your toddler when they’re being a jerk-I mean, need some gentle reminders on how to be a nice friend.

I hope this helps the next time you need a 22-minute break from your precious unicorn offspring. Feel free to pass along this handy guide to a pregnant friend who doesn’t yet know the dark underworld that is children’s telvision.

Unless you think she’s the kind of mom who will just send her kids outside with sticks.

(Can I meet her?)