What Summer is For

I got up at 8:00 this morning, the sun peaking through the cracks on my matchstick blinds, and I felt virtuous for getting up so early, a sign that summer is in full swing.

I believe summer mornings are best served up lazy. I relish getting out of bed when I'm ready to get up, not when my alarm dictates. I let my kids lounge in their pajamas until noon and watch Bubble Guppies and Team Umizoomi until they turn off the TV. I might serve breakfast at 11:30. (Hey, it's still morning.)

I want the plan being no plan, at least for part of the day.

I'm not normally like that. The rest of the year, I bleed organization. This past school year, I had a schedule that ran so smoothly, it was like living inside a Lear jet engine; my weeks positively hummed.

I would get up around 7:00 (::cough:: 7:30 ::cough::) and shower, get my kids ready for school, feed everyone breakfast and then swoosh everyone into the minivan by 8:30 for the drive to school. Three mornings a week, Teyla had preschool, so those mornings, Kieran and I would hit up Target and Trader Joe's or head to the community center so I could work out and he could play at his own "school." (Brag alert: I worked out consistently two mornings a week the entire school year thanks to Teyla's schedule.) The mornings Teyla didn't have preschool, I would leave the littles in their pajamas for the school run and then we'd come home and watch TV or paint or clean the house or maybe head to the Children's Museum. The ying-yang of the busy mornings spaces with the lazy mornings was pitch perfect for me.

Lunch was around 12:30 each day, nap for Kieran (::cough:: and me ::cough::) at 1:30 while Teyla watched Strawberry Shortcake on the iPad and then we'd leave at 2:50 (::cough:: 3:00 ::cough::) to pick up the kids at school. Afternoons we might do homework or watch PBS Kids or play Legos or go outside until 5:00, when it was time for me to make dinner. We'd eat, play, bathe, read books, snuggle, pray, snooze. The end.

My weeks were so well-ordered, I almost didn't have to think about anything. I just flowed from one spot to another. Of course, it also meant I had to keep moving. At 7:30 each morning, I was forced to get up. Lunches had to be packed for the next day, homework had to be done, bedtime had to be at a decent hour. Even if the schedule is a thing of beauty, it starts to feel like a prison after a while, a taskmaster glowering at you if you miss a beat.

Maybe that's why I love summer so much. It practically demands schedules be thrown to the wind. Stay up late! Eat one more s'more! Sit next to the pool and watch your kids swim instead of cleaning the house! Drink your coffee on the front porch and let your toddler explore the new flowers. Don't plan too much or rush ahead. Relish this moment, when the sunshine is bright on your skin and the breeze is tickling the trees and your children are laughing with the joy of a spontaneous football game with Dad in the backyard. Inhale the smoke from the bonfire, built for no other reason than you like to hear the wood snap and hiss. Make homemade ice cream. Go Up North. Spend too much at the fair.

Fall will be here soon enough. The schedules will return, days will be organized and your calendar full.

But not today. Not this morning. Pour a second up of coffee and linger. It's what summer is for.

The Final Hurdle

You know that little plastic thing that goes in the lid of a sippy cup? It has arrows on both sides causing mothers-of-a-certain age to squint and hold it up to the light to figure out which end it which?

A little tip from me to you: When it starts to grow mold that cannot be eradicated, it's time to toss the sippy cup.

And when your youngest child is three, you might decide, "Screw it. I'm done with sippy cups forever. See you later, suckers!" And then you might laugh maniacally at your own stupid joke and toss the sippy cups in the trash with smug satisfaction.

Enter: The Era of the Open Cup, also known as The Age of the Spilled Milk.

But it's OK, I've decided. For better or worse, I'm winding down my time in Toddlerville. I'm entering a new phase of life, one more ruled by school calendars and sleepovers and sports schedules than naptimes and tantrums and baggies stuffed with Cheerios.

I'm a little wistful. But mostly, I'm ready.

What's a little spilled milk between mom and her growing kids? Bring on the new stage of life.

I've only got one final hurdle - potty-training Kieran, who never really liked sippy cups to begin with.

Lord have mercy.

On The Wound and The Healing

I was reaching back to hand Teyla her markers when I felt my thumbnail bend and then rip deep into the nail bed. Lightning pain. I gasped involuntarily and jerked my hand back to the front.

We were driving home to Minnesota after spending a week in Colorado, a week where we practically steeped ourselves in the goodness of family and friends and Americana. I had nail clippers in the back of the minivan, tucked away in my suitcase, but I couldn't reach it. So for the next hour, I nursed that broken nail and pulled at it gently to see if I could finish the job the marker case started.

It throbbed and my nail bed oozed. Finally, I worked up the courage to pull it off in one-fell swoop, to put an end to the suffering and get on with it.

But dang. That bad boy hurt.

My thumb has been tender the last four days, ever since we got home. Much like my heart. On one hand, it's wonderful to be back in Minnesota, to enjoy the glorious summer we earned enduring our too-long winter. I'm glad to be sleeping in my own bed again, I'm even more glad the kids are sleeping in their own beds again, and it feels right and good to be cooking in my own kitchen, doing my own laundry, even wedding my own garden again.

Home is a wonderful thing.

But after spending a week with my sister and brother-in-law and parents and watching my kids play with their cousins and remembering what it's like to live near family, my heart is a little tender.

I didn't grow up with extended family nearby, so I didn't grow up expecting to have my kids hang out at their grandparents on the weekends or have a cheering section of family present at every ball game. It was always just me, my parents and my siblings. There was a sweetness about it being just us.

But now that I'm older, I know that we missed out on that larger community of family. And I miss it for me, as an adult. I miss it for my kids.

So my heart is healing this week, in a place that's normally protected. The rawness is fading, and I know I'll adapt to life as it is, not as I wish it could be. The nail will grow back.

But it sure was fun enjoying it all sparkle, for a little while.