Summer Curiosities

IMG_4999I used to love the Fall: the reddening of the leaves, the crisp air, the blue bird skies but now it’s the summer that tugs at my heart.  I love the slow-down, the indulgence, and the warm weather but more than anything I love the break from routine.  Most people look at me like I am clueless, an amateur, when I say that my kids take a break from all organized activity in the summer and yes, that includes camp.

It’s a conscious choice- a more mindful one.  Before we became parents we would dream about our future family.  We never discussed what to name our babies (that could explain why we found it so stressful), how cute they’d be (given!), or what we thought about attachment parenting, but we did talk about the big picture.  And by big picture, I mean huge.  What sort of foundation would we lay?  What are the most important values we want to instil?  What memories of our own childhood do we hope to transfer to our own children?

A seed that grew from those early conversations was meaningful together time.  Admittedly, in the early years of parenting survival was key, and escaping for alone time topped my list of priorities.   Now, just like everyone said that it would, things have changed again – in what seems a blink of an eye.

No more diapers or strollers or sleepless nights.  No naps or a constant stream of illnesses.

We’ve crossed a bridge and I find myself on the other side, somewhat weary, a little bruised; simply amazed we made it through.  Now it’s time to put into action our plan for our family.

There are downsides to being a stay-at-home mom but there are a lot of incredible perks too.  It’s taken a long time for me not to feel guilty about enjoying them.

And so this summer, I did just that.  I made a dream become a reality.  I crossed off two weeks this summer, packed-up the boys and rented a house far, far, away from our everyday life.

These two weeks have been void of anything overly familiar (except whining and bickering), very limited screen time, and heavy on the family time.  What I have learned is without the constraints or pressures of our lives, our family unit grows stronger.  We challenge each other to try new things and spend time really talking and listening.  Most of all we each feel more vulnerable without the trappings of home and we only have each other to lean on.

I see my boys’ personalities developing.  I see their strengths and admit to myself their weaknesses.  I see them become more pack-like: defensive and protective while playfully mauling each other like lion cubs.

I have slowed down and allowed myself to indulge their curiosities.  How do seashells get their colouring?  Where does sea-glass come from?  Why do some fish swim in schools while others glide along the reef independently?

I hope to increase the time we spend on summer retreat over the years to the full two months.  I may be unrealistic.  It may be a harebrained plan.

But I have made it across one bridge and I see another on the horizon and experience has taught me that objects are closer than they appear.


Simply Living or Living More Simply?

imgres-1I can’t simplify Christmas.  I just can’t.  I love the idea of homemade gifts but I can’t even sit down with the Rainbow Loom for 10 minutes without wanting to snap it in half over my knee.  I have been knitting a scarf – since 2005.  Why bother making my own preserves to gift over the holidays when I can mosey down to the specialty grocer and pick up something decadent without breaking a sweat, scalding my finger or cursing over botched batches.  No sir.  If you want to simplify the holidays, go on-line and get it all done with a few clicks of your mouse and a pounding to your credit card.

But the truth of the matter is that I would like my day-to-day life to be simpler, calmer and for me to be more present in the minutes as they pass.

Almost everyone around me is CRAZY BUSY, myself included.  In fact most people declare it like their worth is somehow tied to just how CRAZY BUSY they are.  In this model, success, talent, and with-it-ness is directly related to how many emails arrive in your in-box with each ping, how many activities are scheduled in the day and the number of projects that are being juggled.


I am blessed to have so many choices – something I realize is not a reality for many people.  But sometimes I wonder why I feel the need to grasp at everything?  Why do I want to experience it all?  Is it, in fact, to relish in the process and find happiness in the moments or am I choosing to swell my to-do list to satiate my ego?  Quell my insecurities?  Or maybe I am just greedy and because I have been told that I can have it all, I want it all.

The truth of the matter is, I used to equate slower paced living with laziness but now I think it’s smarter living and come the new year, I want to be living smarter.  In an effort to simplify my life, I have decided not to say “yes” but instead, “I will get back to you”, making mindful decisions about my time and in turn (hopefully) creating a more fulfilled life instead of a more filled life.

Hookey or Home?

055There were clues.  The first was that my six year old didn’t eat breakfast:  no hot cereal and no eggs.  When asked why, he said he was tired.  The second and third clues were screams of anguish over small things, small enough that I can’t remember them just a day later.  And on the way to the car, my son yelled to his father who would be driving him that he didn’t want to go to school!  No!  No school!

Guess what we did?

I told his father to leave our son at home, and go forth with other errands.   And when my husband without a word did just that, my son let out more screams:  Actually I want to go to school!  I changed my mind!  I want to go!  Daddy!  Daddy!!  Then he collapsed in a heap on the deck.  It didn’t seem like a good time to talk, so I went back into the house.

I peeked out the window to check on my boy a few minutes later.  He was still sitting, but had found a stick and was silently drawing with it on the wooden boards of our deck.

A few minutes after that he came into the house.  Different, calm.  He saw me and smiled.  “What are we going to do today, Mommy?”

A few years back, I read Simplicity Parenting:  Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids  by Kim John Payne.  As I recall, I didn’t read quite to the end, but his main message (see subtitle above) resonated with me.  I remember him likening the remedy for a child who is out of sorts, withdrawn, or unusually moody to the remedy for a physically sick child.  And that’s to slow everything right down, and rest.

I don’t know why I was certain that this is what my son needed yesterday, but I was.  We had not been noticeably more busy than usual, with the exception of a new basketball practice, and he had been sleeping enough and well.  He has been ravenous lately, so maybe he needed some respite from all the growing his body is doing.  I’m not sure.  But I do know that the boy who always eats a good breakfast and who looks forward to school and who was falling on the back deck was not himself yesterday, and I was sure that some downtime was the remedy.

We ended up ditching school for the whole day, and reading club after that.  He came along for the ride when I dropped his brother off for a half day of afternoon kindergarten, and asked to get out to say hello to his brother’s teacher (and his former kindergarten teacher) “because he doesn’t get a chance to talk to her”.  He popped out, said hello, showed her a rock he had in his pocket, and got back into the car.  I asked if he wanted to go to school in the afternoon, although I knew the answer.  “No,” he said.

What did he do?  I just followed his lead.  First, he asked to make a pillow for a beloved stuffed friend.  He chose the felt rectangles, the embroidery floss, and practiced the running stitch that he’s learned recently at school.  I couldn’t find my bag of stuffing for the pillow, so he used small pieces of scrap fleece to stuff the pillow.

Turns out the present of the pillow was for the stuffie’s birthday (just a day away!), so he needed to make a cake.  He often makes food on his own in the kitchen, and yesterday he made a cake with no recipe or input for me, following only his own sense of what should go in a cake (we bake and cook a lot together, so he has a sense of these things).

While I was putting his baby brother down for his afternoon nap, I fell into a deep sleep, not realizing how tired I was.  I tried to wake myself up from the nap, but I couldn’t will my eyes to open.  Finally, after an hour and a half, I struggled out of sleep to check in on my older son, thinking he might be disappointed at losing time alone with me.  I found him in the bathroom, washing something.

“How are you?” I asked.

“Fine!” he replied.

“What have you been doing?” I asked.

“I worked on my Lego fire truck, and now I’m washing my rocks.  They need to be washed every week.”

And the day went on like that:  pleasant, easy.

When he saw me this morning, he said, “I feel better today.  I want to go to school.”  And he did.

When he came home, he made the icing for his stuffie’s cake, and decorated it with sugar he coloured with food dyes.  We sang a warm happy birthday to our stuffed animal friend, and ate cake.  It was nice to round off the doings of the previous day with this little celebration.

I’m not worried that I’m instilling bad habits or a slack attitude in letting my son stay home yesterday.  I think many of us, no matter how old we are, can benefit from a well-timed day of downtime, after which we go back to our routines refreshed and rested.  Sometimes we can’t do this, but sometimes we can, and I’m glad we did it yesterday.  Some people call it hookey.  I call it home.