summer

Late Summer 2013

A catch-up.

The boys developed a love of washing windows, which I hope remains with them always.

A pool party, with dear friends.

To celebrate the end of summer we took the kids to Coney Island.

It was terribly hot …

and so much fun.

Sophie and Andy rode the ferris wheel …

while the boys had to watch (sometimes, being little is hard).

Of course, they managed to find rides suited to them, too.

Nini and Pop Pop joined us.

And still to this day we’re asked to go back, at least once a week.

We had tea parties with Colleen.

In September, Sophie tried out soccer.

We went to the Preble County Pork Festival, a family tradition, with lots of family.

The boys experimented with sharing sandals.

We went to Woodfill Elementary’s Big Top Festival.

And we took naps on the porch.

And in mid-October, it was still warm enough and green enough to climb trees.

“There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.” —Celia Thaxter

Brother Nap

(taken late August, 2013)

“A brother is a friend given by Nature.” —Jean Baptiste Legouve

A Walk in the Woods

This morning was gorgeous. We left the windows open overnight and as such, our house was filled with outdoor morning sweetness—chirping birds and cool breezes.

The children’s attitudes, however, were less than gorgeous. There was whining and crying, and fit-throwing when Andy left for work.

In my mind, I couldn’t understand how they could be so cranky when so much outside beauty was pouring through the tiny holes in our window screens. I knew this line of thought was unreasonable but still, I was irritated.

So, I decided to immerse them into the beauty of the day in way I haven’t yet attempted with all three of them by myself.

“We’re going hiking,” I said.

Their moods instantly improved.

We went to Tower Park, only a couple minutes from our house. I knew they had trails there as we, as a family, had walked some of them during Fort Thomas’s annual jack-o-lantern walks. But we had never hiked them on our own.

The kids loved it. They pointed out everything—mud, sticks, different leaves, bugs, squirrels, the sound of an owl.

And then, we spotted them—two beautiful deer watching us, perched on a ridge just above us. (I failed to bring my camera and was only able to capture sunlight with my phone.) The kids were quietly ecstatic, trying their hardest to be quiet so as not to scare the deer away.

We continued hiking and like something out of a children’s book, the deer followed us, we down below, they on the ridge above.

We walked through the woods for a good half hour, which was about the time I started to wonder if my assumption that the trail would loop was, perhaps, incorrect. I called Andy. He tried to figure out where we were on the trail map. I told him where we started. He said that was impossible, according to the map. So the four of us turned around, walking back the way we came.

Sophie led the way, yelling back to us every time she encountered something we might want to know about.

“Here’s a rock bridge!”

or

“Balance on this tree root!”

or

“Don’t step in that mud puddle!”

James fell on a rock once. Owen forgot to watch out for that mud puddle and ended up with a mud-soaked sandal. Sophie loved to lean precariously over edges while I fretted.

It was perfect.

Parenting ruts are so easy to fall into—especially in later summer when there is no school and vacation has come and gone. But then, a morning like this morning happens. A morning when you discover a treasure in your own backyard, in your own little town, in our own little world, previously unknown.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” —John Muir

We Were That Family

It’s summer. Not technically, but the pool at the Y is now open so really, it’s summer.

We’ve been twice. The first time I took all three kids by myself, to meet my friend Angel and her daughters, Zoey and Mya.

It was so much easier than last year. The kids played in the children’s pool for more than an hour. I sat for much of the time. And talked to Angel. James went down the water slide over and over and over. Sophie dipped her naked Barbie in and out of the pool. Owen, well Owen spent much of the time on my lap but still, when he did get in the water, he had fun.

I envisioned a glorious summer made up of afternoons at the pool, in the sun, happy.

So naturally our next visit to the Y was a disaster.

Andy and I took all three kids Sunday. Everything was great—until we had to leave.

All three lost it. We immediately stopped, got down on our knees at their level and sternly told them how inappropriate their behavior was and how there were going to be consequences as soon as we got home.

James listened to us and stopped.

Sophie (Sophie! Who is 5!) and Owen drew stares.

It was if their bodies had been taken over by demons. They screamed and kicked and carried on in a way we have never seen before. I took Owen. Andy took Sophie. There was no talking to them at this point. We carried them, our heads down and lips tight.

The walk to gather our towels and then exit the Y was so long. So very long. It’s not an exaggeration to say that everyone took notice. Some people had half-smiles on their faces, with I’ve-been-there looks. Some had frowns, with why-can’t-you-control-your-children looks. Some were bewildered, with dear-God-is-that-what-it’s-like-to-have-kids looks.

I wanted to disappear. I still get red-faced thinking about.

Once home, once calm, we had a long discussion about leaving, kicking, hitting, screaming and appropriate behavior. Owen and Sophie lost all dessert and treats for three days (which, for them, is a very. big. deal.). And we’ve told them that from now on we’re not going to put up with even a hint of whining when it’s time to leave—and that if something even close to that happens again, stricter consequences will occur.

So far, everyone has been incredibly well-behaved today. Sweet, even. So much so that I’m half-tempted to drag them all to the pool just to say, “See! They’re not always possessed by demons! Most of the time they’re actually wonderful, kind, incredibly-pleasant-to-be-with children!”

Tell me: Worst public tantrum (if only to make me feel better).

“Temper tantrums, however fun they may be to throw, rarely solve whatever problem is causing them.” —Lemony Snicket

Tomatoes

A couple days ago, in preparation for winter, we pulled all the tomato plants out of our (tiny) garden bed. Late this spring I went to pick up lunch at a restaurant for my family and in-laws, who were visiting. It was a Sunday—I didn’t realize the restaurant didn’t open until noon on Sundays. It was 11:45am and I had time to kill. On the way to the restaurant I noticed a man selling plants in a parking lot where the Highland Heights Farmers’ Market usually takes place. I hadn’t bought tomato plants yet—and wanted some—so I turned around.

I so wish I had taken a picture of the man—and his car. It was an old car with a rickety wooden greenhouse attached to its roof. The man had a ton of plants, knew everything about them, pulled seeds out of his pocket when explaining their beginnings to me—we talked for 20 minutes.

I bought six tomato plants.

When I got home, Andy said we didn’t have room for six tomato plants.

I disagreed.

He was right.

Still, we got some beautiful tomatoes.

James and Sophie loved to eat them straight from the garden, warm from the sun, the insides spilling (and staining) their summer shirts. At times I wondered how it was possible James could fit that many tomatoes in his belly, yet he did. And I let him.

Even when it was close to dinnertime.

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” —Lewis Grizzard

A Summer Trip to Baltimore

The kids loved playing with Paw Paw’s pool table, even though the boys kept insisting it was “baseball.” James loved the table so much that he drew on it. With red crayon. (I’m still so sorry about that, Paw Paw. James is, too.)

Sophie wasn’t too fond of Jake’s (their beautiful new lab) kisses. So she created this cage for herself—she sat up here, often.

The boys loved the train table Grandma and Paw Paw found on Craigslist.

James also loved hitting Owen on the heads with trains. Which he got put in time out for. Which, as you can see in this picture, he loved.

We took a day trip to visit my aunt Alise and uncle Tom, and their three kids—David, Jessica and John. We spent the hot, hot day playing in the sprinkler, enjoying a cookout and eating ice cream sundaes.

There was up-past-bedtime-swingset time.

And s’more-making time.

We visited Paw Paw’s office in downtown Baltimore …

and Grandma’s office, too. The kids loved Grandma’s view.

Sophie even got a present from one of Paw Paw’s colleagues—a crown-making kit, which she loved, and which she still plays with, almost daily.

James and Owen playing at Grandma and Paw Paw’s house—and proof that James isn’t the only one who gets into trouble for hitting/touching/otherwise bothering his brother.

We also celebrated Paw Paw’s birthday!

Jake

Grandma’s flowers

The night before we left, Sophie got a tour of Grandma’s jewelry studio. She loved it.

So much so, that the next morning Sophie and Grandma made a beautiful necklace together. You can read more about Sophie’s venture into jewelry-making here.

On the way home, we stopped at my alma mater, Ohio University, for dinner. It was surreal, seeing my children walking the same grounds I walked for four years, before I knew them, of them, of this life I now live.

The drive went as well as you can expect although we arrived much later than I had hoped. It was so nice, though, to see the home where Grandma and Paw Paw live, for the kids to be able to envision that space when they think of their grandparents. It was fun to see their workspaces as well. And there’s something just so comforting to wake up and eat breakfast while in pjs with family. To spend the day sharing one’s day-to-day activities with others. To stay up late talking. And to wake up and get to do it again. Especially when family lives far away.

“The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.” —Thomas Jefferson

Summer Happiness

dinner alfresco

Sophie solo kite flying for the first time

apple picking

throwing bad apples in the cornfield

teaching the art of swinging a baseball bat

James to Pop Pop: “Hat, please.”

He wore it for the entire game.

“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.” —George R.R. Martin

A Summer Day With Family At My Grandma’s House

Our visit with extended family continued the next day, at my grandma’s house.

The children drew pictures on the patio with chalk.

My mom gave Emilie and Wendy each a handmade lap quilt, which you can read about here.

The children ran through the “sprinkler” (ie the garden hose).

There was porch fun and …

chasing fun while …

Nini finished up the binding on the quilts.

It was a beautiful day.

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” —Desmond Tutu

A Summer Day With Family At My Parents’ House

Earlier this summer my cousins Emilie and Wendy, and Wendy’s children Makenna and Mavvie, visited Ohio from their hometown in Kansas. We see them so rarely—their visit was a treat. And we spent a wonderful summer afternoon at my parents’ house.

Sophie, Makenna and James jumping on Nini and Pop Pop’s bed

Mavvie, James, Sophie, Makenna and Owen eating popsicles on the porch

kids + Emilie, Pop Pop, Nini, Wendy and my grandma

porch view

porch popsicles

Mavvie, Sophie and Makenna

porch feet

James

Makenna

Mavvie (photo taken by Makenna)

Sophie (photo taken by Makenna)

Owen (photo taken by Makenna)

my grandma (photo taken by Makenna)

James, a notoriously slow popsicle eater

bubbles

my mom and grandma

Owen throwing a tantrum and “running away”

Mavvie trying to console Owen

Great Grandma and Owen

Makenna’s cartwheel

Great Grandma + children

Owen

Makenna

my mom’s lavender, drying

more fun in Nini and Pop Pop’s bedroom

Mavvie

wrestling with Pop Pop

the boys’ favorite snack

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” —Henry James

Happy Summer

I admire those who do not give their children sweets or whose organic, all-natural Trader Joe’s lollipops are the only candy allowed in the pantry, I do. But if I’m really honest, I also love that, after a trip to the library (in which Sophie picked out five princess books, the boys squealed much too loudly at the gerbil running in its wheel and all three kids tried on different hats for 10 minutes) we went to our local candy store, The Candy Cottage. I love that each child picked out a candy necklace and wore it home. I love that I’m sitting here, listening to that classic crunch as they bite a candy bead off. I love seeing the wet string against their neck and remembering how deliciously wonderful that felt when I was a little girl. I love seeing the joy in their faces as they walk around our porch and inside our house, absolutely delighted in the fact that they are wearing a necklace made out of candy and can eat it wherever they go.

It’s summer. Who knows. Maybe I’ll let them stay up way past their bedtime tonight, to catch fireflies, too.

Some rules, I think, can and should be (occasionally) broken.

“Then followed that beautiful season … Summer ….
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow