summer 101.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

{scroll down and hit play on my playlist first.}
i love my children.
i am their mother.  and they are my life.
and it's summer time.  a time of lazy days at the beach,
sandy feet, long evenings, late bedtimes.
and i've already alluded to the fact that i'm dreading the days when our house is empty,
all the little things that we're slowly moving away from and growing beyond,
how it breaks my heart a little more each day, when we graduate,
from diapers to pull-ups (soon to little buzz lightyear and star wars undies,)
from baby spoons to REAL silverware,
sippies to the glass cups, that little meat fingers can now reach around to hold.
the list is a mile long.  i feel each day, i have to witness another milestone surpassed.
with immense joy, but equal sadness for time passing and the truth that these sweet moments
can't be done over.  (hence the obsessive picture-taking.  THAT is why i'm a photographer.)
a bigger backpack for a bigger body,
bigger shoes for bigger feet,
shoes that don't need to be velcro anymore, but can be tied by bigger hands!
i hate it.
i love it.  and i hate it.
BUT, our first week of summer behind us,
(and please read above again if you need to. . .i love my children,)
BUT, there are those moments, those long stretches of days,
(the past week, actually,)
where i really do want to knock their heads together.
pull over on the side of the road, stick a sign on them that says, 
because.  some days.  they just might be better off with a better mother.
this one clearly can't do it right.
you know!  if you're a mom,
i can only take, "NO!  I DON'T WANT TO!  I DON'T LIKE IT!"  so many times a day.
"CHARLIE HIT ME!  GWACIE PUSHED ME!"  fighting over every.damn.thing.
6pm is my limit.  without fail, that is my wall.  and it is what it is.
and then sh** hits the fan.
i was just telling one of my friends how wonderful grace has been behaving the past few months.
like she turned a new leaf and is now becoming this mature little 5-year-old that i've been waiting for.
why didn't someone shove a foot in my mouth?
literally, the next day, it was like a switch had been flipped.  
(God must've heard me and said, "oh?  oh really?  well, try this on for awhile, liz.  you're not as amazing a mother as you think you are and she's not either.")
she has her great moments.  and again.  i know she's a kid.  she's learning.  she, they or even myself, will not always be glorious and so fun to be around,
but right out the gate in to the first week of summer?  she's swingin'.
you know that rage, as a mother.
(if you don't, i'd like to talk to you and find out what's wrong with you.)
and if you have no idea what i'm talking about,
because your babes are too small to give you any real grief yet,
you'll know someday.
and yes, i know veteran moms, what i'm griping about now is small potatoes compared to sixteen-year-old daughters with hormones and car keys and curfews.
but for now, this is where I'M at.
back to the rage.
you could be cool.  calm.  doin' your thing.  minding your business.  tending to your motherly duties, with the chatter of little people constant in your ears, but you know how to tune it out now.
but it can bubble up out of nowhere.
where your child's persistence, combined with whining and begging, finally gets the best of you!
and you lose your cool.
i get to that place almost every day.  and it's not always with grace.  sometimes jack.
charlie, well, he's too little.  he's just making messes and hitting his sister on occasion (and she usually deserves it.)
but i reach it.  that point.  the place where all patience has completely dissipated for the day and the idea of handling whatever issue is in front of me, in a calm-coming-down-to-their level, finding out what they really need, gently holding their hands, (do they need a hug?  a kiss?  just need to be held?  is no longer an option.)  now i mean business.
my first instinct is to be physical.  because nothing else has seemed to work.  
and of course, instead of smacking or spanking i'll grab the back of a neck or an arm and show them, the game's over. 
12 straight hours has finally pushed mommy to her breaking point.
and of course, this scares them to tears, fills a tired mommy with guilt, 
but some days, it just can't be stopped.
kids, somehow, can push you to be better each new morning, but can also bring out the absolute worst in you by evening.  (hell, some days, by 8am!)  that is the truth.  i don't care who you are.
and THIS behavior, by both of us, is just not going to fly for the summer.
i don't want to spend my summer with all 3 underfoot, 
filled with rage, frustration,
no yelling, neck grabbing.
it's summer after all, and it's such a beautiful and quick season here in MN,
i want to enjoy it and make it memorable.
SO i sat the kids down, nestled them next to me on our love seat,
and held a meeting. 
and stated these thoughts, exactly.
"We are going to come up with a summer routine, so that mommy doesn't kill anyone and you guys have the best summer."
(and they laughed, because they get it.  even at 5 & almost 7.)
charlie just sat there poking gracie in the ear.
we came up with a new way to live for the summer,
one that would only harbor creativity, more pretend play, independence, even MORE time outdoors and MUCH less tv.  (they watch too much.)  AND more respect for each other.  learning to get along under close quarters and long days.
our routine change was minimal, but a must.
here's how it's going to go. . .
1.  you can NOT come in to mommy's room before 7am!  
(that's fair, right?)
i need that quiet time.  to prepare for the day, yoga, write, put laundry away from the day before, in the quiet of my own space.
IF you do wake up, (i'll greet you lovingly, of course.  because it's hard to turn away a sleepy, little face, bed head on a 2-year-old and little cinderella undies wrapped up in her blanket.)
but then i'll march you right back to bed until 7. 
2.  beds must be made and you must be dressed before you come downstairs for breakfast.
(easy enough.)
much of our winter routine, was little bodies snuggling next to me in bed, as soon as they were up, watching a show.  and although even then, i felt gross about the instant stimulation from the t.v., first thing in the morning, which seemed to sort of set the course for a long morning of laziness and then rushing to get everyone together before school. 
well, we're done with that.
no t.v.  they can lay in my bed and listen to the birds chirp outside, dogs huffing & puffing up our sidewalk on their morning walk, or read a book.
3.  IF they want to watch t.v., they get 2 hours, MAX.  once mid-day, while i make lunch (if we need it,) once late afternoon, while i do dinner.)
4.  they love to play computer games, which are harmless and educational.  SO, i allowed them each (jack negotiated for 35 minutes a day, instead of 30,) provided all chores are done.  sounds fair.
5.  i will tolerate absolutely no whining, begging, hitting and most importantly, SASS!
it's that lippy-ness (mostly from grace,) that at the end of the day, sends me over the edge.
done.  you have THREE times to adjust your attitude or your mouth, otherwise, you're in your room.  (i know some parents don't believe in time outs, but for me, they work.)
separating my children from me and the beat down they deserve, is important.
but it also separates them from any fun they were having or that their siblings continue to have without them, which is devastating to them.  they learn quickly with that.
so, grace has spent MUCH time in her room the past few days and i don't feel the least bit of guilt about it.
she's going to learn.  she's not going to disrupt our summer with her sass.
now, keep in mind, the kids actually helped me come up with these, negotiated and even made 'rules for mommy.'  only fair.
no working on the computer during the day.  doh!
no texting. . .jack said that bothers him.  i'm guilty.  
so, no texting within site of the kids.  i can do that.
a good meeting that let the kids know that i WANT to be a good mommy this summer,
i want to be kind, generous, fun, spontaneous,
but because they deserve it and have earned it.
charlie even piped in some gibberish about going outside, trying to contribute like his big brother and sis.
i'll just be happy if he learns to poop in the potty this summer.
so, we're off to a rough start,
trying to nestle in to a whole new routine, 
as 'transitions' between seasons with kids, are often challenging,
but CAN allow for more fun and kindness, less yelling, if boundaries are set.
and this past weekend, we tried to do just that, to make up for a painful week.
i LOVE to walk in our neighborhood.  i never get tired of looking at the hodge podge of eccentric to bed n' breakfast to mansion to trailer homes that line our streets.
such a random mix.  fills my walks with wonder and amazement,
how different we all are, yet can still nestle within feet of each other.
and it's nice, because grace and charlie are still small enough to toss in the burly.
but i think this is our last summer of this.  so i'm going to milk it.
{p.s.  i'm not editing these.  that's charlie's dinner on his face.  and a scab where he got ramshackled by the rope swing in our front yard.}  like i said, a long week.
those summer walks.
where we find a little peace in my stride and take comfort in contained children, for now.
to view the lovely things.
the sun setting on another day.
with no promises made but the possibility of getting to do it over tomorrow, only better.
{and how cool is this?  love vintage anything, bikes especially.  that just happen to have cool flowers coming out of them.}  lovely. 
these walks though.  summer nights.
where if they're REALLY good, might just end at our favorite ice cream shop.
it's nothin' to squawk at on the outside, but it's filled with every icecream flavor you can imagine.  a quick 15 minute walk from our house.  (and you have to walk of course, if you're about indulge in all they have to offer.)
on a hot, sticky, minnesota summer night, the line is out the door to the street (hence the amusement-park-style-chain-thingy,)
but in this unseasonably cool weather we've been having, you don't need to stand shoulder to shoulder with tourists, the biker gangs that drive out of their way for this little hole-in-the-wall icecream shop they heard about, fighting to see what flavor you're going to try tonight.

"mmmm. . .masterbilt sounds good.  i'll have that."  (if only i could read.)
this place is like a meat locker.  refreshing on a hot summer night.
again, it's cool here, but not cool enough to keep us away.
and it's amazing what my children will do if they know we're taking them to nelson's.

how do you choose?
i choose easily.  always zanzibar chocolate, maybe a scoop of coconut joy on top.
um, did i mention that a 'scoop' is actually a pint?
when you ask for a 'child' size, this is what they give you.
{insert fact here about why almost half of american's are overweight.  2 scoops to that.}

so we buy ONE cone and split if five ways.  and everyone is full.
and i don't think tuna looked up from his cup once.
well, he did when i tried to take some.

don't mess with the boys' icecream.

hoarding food is never a good sign.
but oh so much more delicious when enjoyed in privacy between two newspaper machines.
bikers like ice cream too.
20 minutes and full tummy's later, 
we make the trek home.
the hill up our street, feeling more like mt. everest after all of that yummy goodness (yes, i managed to shovel a little in between pictures.)
but we trudge along.  well worth the stomach cramping.
and on we move, 
to the next summer day and whatever it will bring.
leisurely breakfasts,
dining with superman.
 or naked coloring, because we don't have to rush off to school.  i love that.
 my little superhero.  have never seen one more beautiful.
or early on a misty sunday morning, after days of rain,
making the slow trek to grandma and grandpa's,
up through the fog-covered bluffs, down winding country roads,
through a sleepy river town,

past minnesota farms,
to tip-toe through grandpa's garden,
literally basking in the fruits of his labor,
picking fresh strawberries for the week ahead.

and i know why he does this, 
spends day after day, night after night, with nature, farming his land.
this is where peace can be found.  even with two little ones who have absolutely no appreciation for it.
you can get lost in that soil, the planting, the pulling, the picking.  it is therapy.  
and we were only there 25 minutes before the 'i'm bored!  i don't wanna' do this anymore," reared its ugly head.
but i was able to 'get it.'  understand.  and i too, will have a garden like this.  someday.
in between all the hairy moments with these little ones, the tantrums, the meltdowns,
the anger, rage and frustration,
are moments of pure joy and love, more than you could ever hope to find, washing everything else out, giving you a moment to catch your breathe and
breathe it all in, reminding you of why you do what you do as a mother.
and that's it's all worth it.


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