When You Don’t Want Summer to End: A Serenade for the Seasons

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Come mid-August, I’m ready for the return of structured days. I’m ready for yellow buses and quiet hours and watching my kids play sports under a canopy of burnt orange leaves. I’m ready for early mornings and rain-soaked skies and school books fanned out across the dining room table. Did I mention I’m ready for the quiet? I love the muted hum that enters with the advent of Autumn.

My kids begin school in two weeks, and for the first time in many years, I want to tug the curtain back on the new day dawning, exposing us to more sunshine and summer. I blinked and an invisible hand drew the drapes on this season. This year, I’m not only saying farewell to summer, I’m also saying goodbye to this season of parenting. This abundant season when all my children live under my roof, needing me, wanting my time, my approval, my attention.

My oldest enters her senior year of high school in two weeks, and she is ready. I am ready. All is as it should be, but knowing this doesn’t remove the taste of it from my mouth. It is, like most things in life, bittersweet. We are moving into a new season, and the bright blooms of summer will fade, the sun will play hide and seek, and the child of my heart will trim away the strings that tie her to me.

I want to lament the passage of time, but I would be wrong to wish for anything other than life as it is today. This season is so good–so very hard, but so very good. Next summer, my daughter will pack her life and all of my love in a few cardboard boxes and drive into the beginning of the rest of her life. I hope she’ll remember how I used to sing her to sleep. How my life was spent as a serenade to the changing seasons.

On Letting Go

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I watered the flowers in the dark last night, by the light of the waxing gibbous moon. I shivered in the cool air, realizing for the first time that Fall is coming soon. My hands are a sieve and time is passing through them. Summer slipped through the cracks and crevices, and a few big memories remain, but the rest dripped down and out, making room for the next season.

Fall will be a season of schedules and work and preparing for our oldest’s future. I’m afraid I will miss something. A friend asked me a medical question a few days ago, and I realized after 15 years out of the nursing field, I no longer have any answers. I told her I don’t know, I don’t have room for that, the answers poured through the sieve many years ago. I had to let them go in order to make room for all the other bits of information and memories and tasks of my real life. I don’t have room to hold onto the former.

When the cool air hit my face last night, it slapped me awake. I don’t want to miss my favorite season, or the children growing into themselves, or me growing into myself either. I want the stories of our life to wrap themselves tight around my wrists, and to wind themselves into my hair. I hope the scent of things to come will cling to me everywhere I go, rather than the scent of what’s already lost–the parts of my life that have already passed through the strain of time. There is so much clinging to me that I simply must let go. Expectations, abandoned desires, failures, residual sadness, knowledge that no longer serves me well.

It’s time to let them pass through, rather than cling to the summer me, it’s time to embrace the next season, to tighten my focus on the coming Fall.

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Is there anything you need to release as you set your face towards the new season? What is one new thing you hope to learn, grow in, or experience in the Fall?

Snapshots of a Snow Day

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I can hear the two youngest through the ice-cold window panes. They shout something or other into the muffle of snow, their words bright spots of color against a backdrop of quiet white.

The oldest is over it–the cold, the white, the endless storm. She comes out of her room for chocolate chip pancakes. That is all.

The dog curls up on the sofa and lets out a deep sigh. His ears flop over and I want to snuggle into the curve of his back and stroke them.

The husband flies home today after five days away in Prague. I check his flight status obsessively throughout the day. All week, I try not to envy him while I sit at home snow-bound in New Jersey. I don’t succeed, especially on the day I turn forty. I wonder how he will make it up the driveway through the thick layer of fluff. I imagine him stuck at the bottom, dragging his suitcase behind him, leaving two snake-like trails all the way to the front door. He will wear shoes entirely wrong for the weather we’re experiencing.

I sit at the kitchen table in my pajamas, computer open, pretending I’m “working”. I realize the only work I’m fit for is personal shopping. I drink six cups of tea and start to feel the jitters. I look up a recipe for making a whole chicken in a slow-cooker. I gather the ingredients then empty the dishwasher. This is the extent of my work today–dishes, phone calls, and a few loads of laundry while the scent of garlic and wine fill the kitchen.

Most days this does not feel like enough, but today, I decide to release the feelings of never-enough. I open my hands and I let go. Today, while the skies sift powder like a sieve, may the filling of bellies and the practiced work of my hands and the warmth of my presence be enough for them and for me.

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I share most of my everyday snapshots on instagram, but in an effort to shake loose the knots in my creativity, I thought it might be fun to share a few here in word form too. I love reading about other people’s everyday. Would you share a snapshot of your day in the comments?

Adults behaving badly

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When we moved to Switzerland four years ago, my kids hadn’t reached the point where sports were an ordinary part of our lives. They reluctantly participated in whatever athletic endeavor struck my fancy when I received the local YMCA registration. Usually, my choices revolved around nap times and when I needed a break from staring at the four walls of my living room.

Living overseas, we were at the mercy of the international school sports program, which happened to be run by a happy-go-lucky Ghanian soccer star and a grumpy German whose idea of gymnastics involved the kids schlepping the heavy mats around the gym and occasionally rolling around on them. As genetics would have it, my kids didn’t play soccer. And I taught schlepping for free, mostly in the form of overloaded suitcases. Many of the students came from Europe or South America, so traditional American sports weren’t offered in the lower school. The middle school did offer them, and this allowed for a my daughter to play softball and basketball in a super low-key environment with students who likely hadn’t played an “American” sport before.

It was fantastic. And fun, really, really fun. It offered the perfect on-ramp for learning teamwork and good sportsmanship, while the parents sat around and chatted, half of us never understanding the rules of the games. (Sadly, as a confirmed anti-athlete, I still know nothing about any of these sports. My husband once caught me reading a book at a minor league baseball game, which may contribute to the problem.)

Fast-forward four years, and we have immersed ourselves into every sport our township and schools have to offer. I spend a lot of time cheering for things I don’t completely understand, which is basically how I operate in daily life, so I’m working within my skill set here.  As I sit on the sidelines with some intensely involved (read: obnoxious) parents, discussing the merits of a six-day per week and late-night practices, I feel thrust into deep waters.

My husband coached basketball for two of our kids teams, and I discovered that he was one of the few coaches who didn’t throw their hands up in utter despair and mouth unpleasantries at eleven year olds trying to hold their own on a court. One grandpa turned to me yesterday and remarked, “I like him. He’s gentle with the kids”,  while M stood across the court high-fiving each and every one of them.

I know a family whose lives are held prisoner by their kids athletic schedules. Church, friendships, school, even normal everyday life bows down to the almighty sports god. I see how it becomes an idol, and I fear that we will fall into this trap of idolatry, never returning to a sense of fair play and fun. Parents, where is all the fun?

I don’t have any answers, only questions and wishful thinking. I won’t ever push my kids to be the best at every game, but if I’m going to sit on the sidelines for hours every week, I want us to learn from and enjoy it. Idol-less, with high-fives included.

The basics

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Tonight is our third and final Back to School night. I have attended coffees and meetings and planning sessions. I’ve met with teachers and mothers and people who want me to sign my name to volunteer lists in blood. I have engaged in more small talk than I can possibly recover from, and I am sick of hearing my own story.

“We moved from Switzerland. No, I don’t speak Swedish. The Swiss speak German. No, I don’t speak that either. We lived here before. We live here again. Yes, I’m glad to be back (mostly a lie). Yes, my kids love school (also a lie). Yes, I too feel like I’m slowly losing my mind, while trying to keep up with their schedules (the absolute truth).”

I hope to someday have a conversation in which I don’t have to simply rattle off the names of my children and their ages. Forget what grade their in, let me tell you how my daughter’s wit reminds me so much of her father I can’t help but smile. How my son’s ability to see past the superficial to the heart of things makes me wish for his insight. How my youngest lights up a room when she walks in. Let me tell you how some days I want to hide from them in my closet, from the incessant bickering and the never-ending requests to go here, buy this, help them with that. How sometimes I feel certain you’re doing this mothering thing better than me. Like when one of my children says incredulously, “You mean Jesus was a real person?” Um, yeah. We told you this approximately 2894 times. When your kid asks you this question, you wonder if there will ever come a time when they will believe it. Word to the wise–this is probably not the time to enter into a discussion about the book of Revelations. I know this from personal experience. Let’s just stick to the basics.

I find myself wanting this more and more these days. A return to the basics. A return to regular home cooked meals, to evenings around the dinner table where no one jumps up to look at a screen of any kind. I want to return to good books and early bed times and knowing that Jesus walked the earth in mud-caked feet. I want a church where I can greet my neighbors, where I can tell someone how things really are, how the kids are crazy and so am I. I want to drive to the shop to buy what I need and not everything the ads tell me I want. I want the clock to tick the hours and for me to feel the passage of time, and I want to learn not to fear it.

Let’s just stick to  the basics. Time together. Real conversation. Good food, solid faith, enough hours in the day to worship, work, and play.

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What are some of the basics you’re sticking with or hope to see return?