The Best Summer Yet

The Best Summer Yet

[ASIDE: Reader, I’m not happy with the aesthetics of my blog posts. I tried to make the font larger for better readability, but then things looked even more catty-wonkus. If there are any WordPress mavens out there, please drop me a line, yo?]

At the end of last summer, I wrote a blog post called “Family Vacation: Same Crap, Different Location.” We’d gone back East for three weeks, only to have both of my parents end up in the hospital. Sammy was in his biting phase. Ben was working too much. And since the summer experience here in NorCal before we went was kind of a nothing burger, the whole summer felt like a reality-TV show about The Sandwich Generation, starring yours truly as the haggard 40-something mother of two whiny children.

How to have your best summer yet. With kids.

I don’t know if I had all of that in mind when I planned this summer, or if we just got lucky, but I’m sitting here of a Thursday feeling genuinely sad that school is starting again on Monday. It’s been a fantastic summer for our family, if not quiiiiiite as amazing as the carefree summers of my youth, then still the best one could expect with two children. It’s been a summer of growth and hard work and bonding and fun, of optimism and realism and good fortune.


?> One. I had great boundaries.

Most academics have the summer off. I do not, but my summer schedule is fairly flexible, and I made sure it stayed that way. I won’t reveal all my tricks of the trade, but suffice to say, I managed to have one of my best work summers yet, by being present with my students but clear about my boundaries. I didn’t get roped into drama. I LOVED my students this summer, you guys. They were smart and engaged and funny and grateful. Who knew?

?> Two. I didn’t overindulge.

Bald-faced lie. Yes I did. I had approximately 78* glasses of booze, spread over a series of fun nights: on camping trips, by the pool, in the afternoon, at gigs, every night in Maine. I also ate delicious food all summer long, had ice cream occasionally, and binge-read novels.

But I ALSO maintained some good habits: I stretched and did my back exercises EVERY morning. I exercised a ton, and I still got up 3-4 mornings a week to write. Woot! That leaves me going into fall without that slightly terrifying feeling that there is a very rude awakening coming in the next ten days.

?> Three. I was spontaneous.

The invitation from my college friend came unexpectedly: did I want to visit her at her cabin in the Sierras that weekend? I’m not great with last-minute plans, but when I saw only one thing on the calendar, I thought, why not? I’m so glad I did. One thing that’s been sorely missing from my life since I had kids is real time in the wilderness, not just sweet urban hikes but being in landscapes that smell like trees, where there’s no electricity, where you hear owls at night. L and I drove three hours up, up, up into the mountains. We hiked in Desolation Wilderness, swam and kayaked in a frigid and beautiful lake, and saw a bald eagle. The only cell coverage to be found was at the top of a steep outcropping of rocks. Maybe if we all had to make that kind of effort to check Facebook, the world would be a different place.

?> Four. I lowered my expectations.

And in doing so, I also raised them. To save money and because, frankly, he wasn’t too excited about it, I didn’t enroll L in week after week of camp. But instead of sitting around reading Calvin & Hobbes like last year, he rode his bike to friends’ houses. He explored at the creek. He helped us plan a camping trip. This summer, my son turned ten and became more independent, too. Summer is nothing if not a time for growth and change, to recharge before the next big thing(s). (Last year of elementary! A new class to plan and teach for me! Preschool!)

?> Five. I counted my blessings.

Not everyone gets to spend two weeks on an island in Maine and then fly to England for five days. Not everyone gets to have three amazing weekends away in California. Color me incredibly grateful for my charmed life, for my community, for my friends, for my flexible summers, and for my parents, who don’t mind how long we stay and who always help with the plane tickets.

And while I wax rhapsodic about how great the last few months have been, I also remind myself that there are children in cages along the border, reproductive rights being threatened, and endangered species being taken off the list. Part of a summer recharge is gathering the energy to return to real life refreshed and ready to fight for what you love.

How was YOUR summer? Nothing burger, or magic? I’d love to hear from you.

*  This is only an estimate

p.s. You might also like:

Gorgeous Summer Meals

Reflections from the Dark Time

Homecoming in Norway

Family Vacation: Same Crap, Different Location

Family Vacation: Same Crap, Different Location

Ah, family vacation!

We had a long and windy summer, you might even say a lazy one. Instead of filling L?s weeks with expensive camps, feeling frugal, I emptied out the calendar and kept him home a lot of the time while Sam went off to daycare as usual. Mostly, it worked, though increased class caps and chatty students meant I was ignoring him more than engaging him in quality time. He did a lot of reading Calvin and Hobbes on the couch, and a certain amount of begging for Plants vs. Zombies on my phone.

But summer in this part of NorCal is?can I say this??a nothing burger. The climate here is so temperate, the fog a consistent lurker. Summer looks vaguely different from spring in that it?s a bit dryer and a degree or two warmer?or colder, depending how hard the fog lays in. We had some nice times, but we were all holding, like a beacon, our three weeks in Maine at the end of July. There, I knew, we?d have a real summer. There, I knew, we?d have a real vacation (nevermind that The Hubs was working remotely the first week and me, the whole time). My family would be the proverbial village, helping me raise my kids. The weather would be perfect. Etc.

But that didn’t quite happen.

My poor mom wound up with some horrible GI bug the minute we arrived. It went from terrible to worse, and she ended up in the hospital, on IV fluids and antibiotics. My dad needed to be picked up in Boston after his own medical appointment gone awry. And Ben was working. Not ?I?ll finish this memo then take the kids swimming? working, but up at seven on the computer and taking calls all day working. So there I was, in Maine, trying to get the baby excited to play with a very nice 14-year-old he?d decided off the bat he didn?t like, and Leo, who was now reading Calvin and Hobbes on a different couch, was confused why none of his cousins were there. My mom was dying upstairs, I had papers to grade, neither of my children were happy, and I thought to myself: this is the same old crap. This isn?t vacation at all.

And of course, it dawned on me, that that?s exactly it. There should be a slogan: Vacationing with kids: same crap, different location. Share on X

Vacationing with young kids is not going to be a tropical vacation?even if it IS a tropical vacation.Now, I don?t mean to complain. I was so relieved that if my mom was going to get salmonella or e. coli or cholera that it happened while I was there. It?s hard to be so far away from my parents, especially as they start to age. And being in Maine is always wonderful. But it?s a place I don?t associate with, well, stress in quite the way I did this summer. With pleasing everyone, or trying to. With all the crap we moms wrestle with all the time at home.

After that first week, my mom started to slowly, slowly get better. Ben took the next two weeks officially off, thank goodness. And while it took us a few days more to get into a groove, and for one of us to get her anxiety under control (ahem), we ended the trip with 14 people packed into one house, with an elaborate meal-organization system and enough swimming possibilities to satisfy everyone. The cousinness was amazing: Sammy and the other two littles racing around the house, terrorizing everyone, playing at the beach, tantrumming on cue. It was a sea of cheddar bunnies and dirty diapers and sand and delicious, delicious bonding.

L cried the whole way into town when we left. Why did we have to go? Why couldn’t we stay for three more weeks?

That?s the thing: vacations end. Routines resume. I realize now that vacationing with young kids is never going to be a tropical vacation?even if it IS a tropical vacation. You?re still going to have to change diapers and feed everyone and manage emotional meltdowns and all the rest of it.

But if you’re lucky, it?s also going to be sweet, sweet, sweet.

Did you attempt a family vacation this summer? What was the highlight, or low point? Comment it up!

p.s. You might also like:

The Working Mom’s Lament

Homecoming in Norway