Summer lessons

I had to clean my desk before I attempted to write. I've been trying to curate a nook of sanity for myself - an oasis of tidy with little vignettes of lovely in the sea of kid mess and home decor projects pushed ever further down the to-do list. But the toddler is standing tall and reaching further, and sorting school supplies on the dining room table doesn't mix with serving supper. The pencils and duotangs are still squatting next to my knitting bag, but they're neatly stacked at last. And the dust, the dust is gone. As are the crumbs from my English-biscuit-dunking experiment inspired by "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel;" they were Russian biscuits, not true British ones, but the union was blissful all the same, if one ignored the mess.

School starts next Tuesday for my third (!) grader. Kindergarten hits full swing the Monday after, and it will be just me and the babe five mornings a week. And today, I'm taking a break from pressing forward to look back on what I've learned from this summer of mothering three.

I'm linking up with Emily, along with many other life-long learners. For more lists of lessons, be they deep or mundane, pop over to Chatting at the Sky. Here's mine:

Summer vacation is a really great time to introduce the concept of chores. For the last few years, I've been trying to instil some sense in my children that running this household is a team effort. While they're often game to help out with exciting big projects (like making French toast, or packing for a trip), and we've occasionally exchanged housework for goodies beyond allowances, we've never managed to establish any daily responsibilities. Learning a new task takes time; between my daughter's long bus rides, homework, and early bedtimes, there never seemed to be enough of it. When summer hit, however, I no longer had to choose between giving my children time to play together or teaching them some self-sufficiency. Once a day, my eight-year-old now folds and puts away whatever kid laundry is dry and waiting. My five-year-old empties the dishwasher and puts away as he can manage. There isn't a set time of day to do these tasks, but they must be done before television.

I felt strange making my kids work harder during the season of relaxation, but they didn't actually make that particular objection. They made plenty of others, of course, but by the end of the first week or so they'd found a way to make it fun. My eldest enjoys announcing which coveted items are clean again, and cooing over the baby's cutest outfits. She often complains about the size the job before she begins but glows with accomplishment once it's completed. My son is getting better at squirrelling away the dishes whose homes are in his reach. Those that live too high are prime building material for "big bubble buildings." He usually asks to keep them standing to show off later. We settle for taking a picture before I dismantle them.

A big kid can make a big difference on a solo-parent road trip. As I mentioned last month last post, we embarked on our longest family adventure near the end of July. While we were gone, our yard was to undergo metamorphisis, from the land of concrete and rotting fence posts to a haven of good drainage: fenced, landscaped, and ready to sod. Unfortunately, a permit got missed and the job stalled until we returned to request it, and then paused while our contractor went on his own family vacation. My husband's holidays were up, but the yard was still a mess, and I hadn't seen my hometown since Christmas. So we packed up the van again, hugged my man goodbye and headed six hours east without him, forgetting that it had been nearly four years since we'd last tried it.

Unlike those trips of yesteryear, there were no hour-long cries or parking lot tantrums, just the odd call for snacks and a whole lot of Coldplay. Filling the van's six-CD-changer before we left helped a lot, as did the promise of DVD time after lunch, but the biggest boon was a child with a good head and long arms to hand snacks and books and toys to her car-seated siblings in the row ahead. My first baby is growing up. It's bittersweet, but also kind of wonderful.

Our crabapples usually ripen in mid-August - not September. It's been two years since I posted my recipe for crabapple butter, complete with complaints about my backyard harvest coming unseasonably early. Two years where the apples turned rosy just as early, even when the preceding summer weather wasn't nearly as strange. That leaves only one year with September apples, and that was our first autumn after moving in. The three years before that, we had a different house with a different species of apple tree; I'm wondering if that first year was the anomaly or if my memory's confused one fruit's time of ripeness with the other. Next August, I'll be ready.

That'd better be it, or I'll miss the link-up deadline. Sorry for the long and rambly post. It's been a dry summer for writing, and I'm a little rusty.

Happy September, friends. Enjoy the New Year!


  1. I'm glad you're back. :-) Your talk of crabapples makes my heart happy. They always mean Canada to me. :-)


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