It has been an amazing summer filled with camps, dips in the pool and good family time. Over the past few weeks, I have given a lot of thought as to what my future writing plans will be. After heartfelt consideration, I have decided to take a break from blogging. It has been an incredible journey and I am tremendously grateful to have shared this experience with so many of you. Words can’t describe how thankful I am to my loyal readers and your continued support. As I sign off for now, I encourage you all to take one moment each day to really connect with your kids – whether it is with a special piece of chocolate dropped into a backpack or by sharing a beloved bracelet…that moment will no doubt create a spark. It has changed my parenting for the better which is what I set out to do. Friends…I will miss you!
One of the things I love most about the mind of a child is its ability to imagine the impossible and then actually believe that those outlandish visions are achievable. My kids seem to dream up the craziest ideas and I adore seeing their creativity at work. However, as a realist and complete buzz killer, it is my job as their mom to bring them back to reality. In most cases, I find myself putting the kibosh on their sweet yet demanding requests to bring their concepts to life. So when they wanted to build a zip line from the deck to the play set, my answer: No. When they wanted to stack my dining room furniture up to the ceiling in order to look like a rocket, my answer: Absolutely not. The same holds true for their relentless requests each summer to build a tree house. I have explained about our lack of mature trees and building materials, then pointed them to the lovely play structure in the back yard. Each year my excuses would cue their eye rolling and continued pleas, yet my answer remained the same: No. A few days ago, Cricket and her friend asked if they could add a few things from around the house to a tree out by the garden. It seemed harmless enough so I let them go ahead. The boys then joined in and the kids were working together seamlessly so I didn’t dare interrupt. After the dust had settled, I went outside to see the structure worried that I would have to tell them to take down some awful monstrosity. As I turned the corner, I saw a lovely tree adorned with a rope swing, hanging ladder and welcome sign…all touches born from the imagination of persistent kiddos. Looking at this beautiful creation, I realized that sometimes it’s wonderful to just say: Yes.
This week, our sleep-in summer mornings gave way to the stinging sound of alarm clocks waking everyone up for the early start of day camp. The kids lay in bed until the last minute, only to be jolted out of their slumber by another one of my nagging calls for them to come downstairs for breakfast. Once there, we had a mad rush to gulp down some food, get the teeth brushed and gear packed for another wonderful day of rock climbing, water skiing, and camp songs (definitely not the same austere kind of camp I went to!). We then all rushed out the door to meet the camp bus, leaving the smell of sunscreen and bug spray lingering in our dust. After the goodbyes were said and the bus pulled away, I headed home to clean up the tornado that had just whirled through my kitchen. Typically a job I despise, I try to whip through breakfast clean up in order to quickly get on with the rest of my day. That morning, however, something stopped me in my tracks. As I went to pick up Cricket’s cereal dish, a smiley face carefully crafted from discarded strawberries, browning bananas and errant cereal pieces stared back at me. I realized that in the chaos and rush to get to the summer fun, she had slowed down to give me a moment of joy. It was a simple, sweet reminder that even in a hurried world there is always time to serve up a bowlful of smiles.
Last week my guilt radar was on high alert. I spent a lot of time driving, cheering on and practicing for the big game with the boys, all the while making Cricket tag along. She often went without a complaint, reading books in the car and finding ways to entertain herself at her brothers’ games. However, I knew she had reached her limit when I saw the look of fire in my sweet daughter’s eyes after asking her to attend yet another one of the boys’ events. Trying to calm the storm, I arranged a play date for my guys the following day and set up my favorite girlie bonding activity, pedicures. Cricket practically kicked her brothers out the door the next day when their friend picked them up, and then we were off to the salon. As we walked in, I couldn’t help but notice two girls in their early teens sitting side by side chatting away at the manicure table. I knew it was likely just a matter of time before my own tween would be sitting there gabbing with her BFF instead of Mom, so I did what any irrational mom would do. I went over to the polish rack and picked out a funkiest sparkly blue color I could find, thinking that cool toes may buy me some more time in the mind of my kid. The ‘cool toes equal cool mom’ theory was definitely crazy, but getting a glimpse of my kiddo’s future made me a bit desperate. Leaving the salon, I looked down at my ridiculously colored nails and laughed. Cricket leaned over and told me she wished she had picked my color, and then asked if I could drop her at her friend’s house on the way home. Well done, sparkly blue.
Maverick and I just had a big anniversary…15 years of marriage, wow! Since we celebrated on our trip last spring, we decided the actual day wasn’t going to be a big deal. As it turned out, the boys were at camp and Cricket would be spending the day with us. When asked what I wanted to do, I thought heading to the mall with my husband and daughter might be fun. We could pick up a few new things and I knew Cricket would love to check out that new hair accessories kiosk. My darling husband was completely game to spend his anniversary doing what his girlie girls loved best, but then he casually suggested we go fishing instead. Hmmm…this was quite the conundrum. After MUCH thought and debate, I decided that the last 15 years had taught me about compromise, so I then helped load up the stinky, heavy, stinky, bulky, stinky, fishing gear into the car. As we paddled the canoe around the lake, Cricket had a blast reeling in her little sunfish. Despite my initial hesitation, I too got into the game and ended up setting the family record for most catches. Even Maverick was satisfied when he hooked a huge one that just happened to let go before we got the picture (no, really!). After a couple of hours, we loaded up the boat, dropped Cricket off at Grandma’s house and got cleaned up for a celebratory lunch. As I took a bite of my delicious risotto, that lingering beautiful stinky fishy smell from my hands reminded me that compromise can be wonderful.
Size doesn’t really matter, does it?
It hit like a ton of bricks…our first summer day without a scheduled camp, practice or other activity. The neighborhood friends were all unavailable, so my kids were stuck having to play with (gasp!) each other. That novelty wore off years ago, so the arguing started shortly after lunch. I heard complaints that the brothers were too mean, the sister was too crabby, the weather was too hot and (my personal favorite) the dog wouldn’t perform any tricks. Finally, they all agreed on Cricket’s suggestion to make a lemonade stand. I was skeptical given their fiery attitudes going into the venture, but started mixing up the pink and purple flavored drinks anyway. As I was carrying two huge pitchers of sugary juice down the driveway, I could already hear my trio bickering and knew it was going to be a long afternoon. Cricket was trying to convince her brothers to donate all earnings to charity, while the boys were lobbying to spend their (yet unearned) new cash on basketball trading cards. While I wanted to step in and mediate the argument like I always do, I simply put down the pitchers and settled into my lounge chair back in the shady garage. They continued to adamantly hash out their stances until a car full of thirsty teenagers pulled up. It was as if the kiddos flipped a switch and their harsh behavior gave way to amazing smiles, polite language, and expressions of gratitude toward their customers. From that moment on, it was all business and doing what it took to bring in the bucks…even if that meant feigning love for their sibling co-workers. In the end, the kids split nearly $20 and didn’t argue one bit the rest of the afternoon. The joy of sweet success is evidently the greatest mediator of all.
I guess that summer spelling book isn’t quite making the grade. “Lemonade” will be on the top of next week’s list.
Back in February, I signed the boys up for a week-long intensive basketball camp. At the time, they could hardly wait to lace up their shoes and hit the court, yet they had to endure four long months until the start of camp. Finally, the night before camp had arrived and we had arranged a sleepover with the next door neighbor and fellow camper. It was a win-win situation for us since we had to drop Cricket off at a different camp the next morning and weren’t able to get the boys to camp ourselves. Sport and Rocky excitedly packed their gym bags and sleepover gear then headed over to spend the evening with their buddy. Maverick and I were just turning out the lights around 11 pm when the phone rang (cue my stomach sinking). It was Sport calling to say he was scared and wanted to come home. I tried to calm him with every tool I had, yet no success. Finally, I suggested that I come over to tuck him in, thinking that seeing me in person would calm his fears. When I arrived, he still pleaded with me to just let him sleep in his own bed. I knew that taking him home not only meant that he would have to skip the camp he had so looked forward to, but also give in to an anxiety that I knew he could overcome. Part of me wanted to scoop him in my loving arms and run him back to our house, but I ultimately knew that wasn’t best for him. I tucked the covers around his head and began singing his favorite song. I could see his body relax as he turned over and closed his eyes. We exchanged an “I love you” and I headed out the door. I tossed and turned all night wondering if I had made the right decision. Early the next morning, I received a text from the neighbor mom saying the boys were all still sleeping…not a peep all night. A wave of relief washed over my exhausted body. That night after camp, Sport enthusiastically reported on the day’s events including his team’s 5-on-5 win. It was certainly a day of victories all around.
Photo Courtesy of: KBB
Summer had finally hit. The backpacks were empty, alarm clocks were turned off, and eyes rolled every time I mentioned reading a book or sharpening those math facts. The kids were already playing hard and squeezing the life out of their vacation days. As one of our days last week was winding down, two of my monkeys were high in our front tree while Cricket was busy decorating the driveway canvas with chalk. Between tinkering with my flowers and barking at the boys to steady themselves on those wobbly branches, I hadn’t paid much attention to Cricket’s growing chalk masterpiece now sprawling all the way up to the garage. Exhausted from the new summer routine, I pulled up a chair to kick back and relax. It was then that I saw Cricket had not been working on a picture, but rather a message of gratitude. She had written, “Thank You” in the center of the driveway, and then surrounded it with all of the things she was grateful for. She listed school, love, ice cream, friends and much more. As I was admiring her work, huge water droplets began falling from the sky. They quickly came closer together until sheets of rain blanketed the air as we watched from the safety of our front window. My sentimental daughter fretted about her painstaking last hour of work that was quickly washed away like colorful tears running down the driveway. The next day brought the sun out again and the kids were back at their carefree outdoor play. When I walked out front I found my persistent daughter recreating her message of appreciation from the day before. When I started back into the house, she begged for me to add something to her growing list. I picked up a piece of pink chalk and carefully added ‘warm sunshine’ and ‘odor control spray for stinky boy shoes’ to her work. However, as I walked away, I realized what I am most thankful for is a kid that is thankful.
When we were house hunting seven years ago, we dragged the kids though over 50 houses. As toddlers, they would run from room to room in each house spouting off their tiny opinions. We heard complaints that bedrooms were too small and basements looked like ghostly graveyards. We finally picked a house that we hoped had it all…room for our growing brood, a nice yard for the kids to play, and a great family neighborhood. After the closing documents were signed, I worried most about my kids connecting with other peeps on our block. On paper, the house was perfect, but as a mom, good neighborhood friends were far more important than the bricks and mortar. As it turns out, we hit the cool neighborhood kid jackpot. I could tell early on that this was a good group of kids who knew right from wrong, but it was at my very favorite vessel of truth…the weekend lunch table, where my suspicions were confirmed. The 7+ neighborhood kids that frequent our weekend kitchen lunch table typically show respect and treat each other with kindness (at least while their mouths are full of peanut butter and jelly). Truly though, it’s the belly laughs, the enthusiastic storytelling and overall conversation volume that tells me this group was destined to be together. They may think weekend lunches are only about hanging out with their buddies and getting some grub in their tummies. However, these lunches are something I look forward to all week; I love every minute of them. Looking back on that house hunt seven years ago, we did indeed find a home that has it all. The weekend lunch table tells no lies.
Here we are…those last precious few days of the school year. I’m trying to savor the quiet, relaxing minutes until my kids come home for the summer and the beautiful chaos begins. While summer is my absolute favorite time of year and I love having the kiddos home, there is no doubt my job is more challenging having them around all the time. Refereeing arguments is undoubtedly the hardest part, but entertaining, policing screen time and taxi driving are all close seconds. Camps, sports and friends keep us busy most days, but on our free days it’s always a challenge to fill the time. We’ll often head out to the backyard for some basketball or a game of kickball, or we might pull out some crayons or pop in a favorite DVD. None of those things seem particularly memorable to me, just part of a regular summer day. However, on the last day of summer a couple of years ago, I asked the kids what their favorite memories of that summer were. They started spouting off everything from our great vacation to eating their favorite ice cream down by the lake. What surprised me most was that each one of them added the mundane…our basketball games, the coloring sessions, and our rainy afternoon DVD. I kept an electronic note of that summer list on my phone and added a new list the following year. When I look back at those moments captured on my lists, they bring me true joy. Going into your summer this week, what will end up on your list?