Surviving Summer!


In this two part series Robynn suggests ways to successfully survive summer! 

School is about to get out here in Kansas. For many moms that’s a sweet joy. They anticipate leisurely time with their children, afternoons at the pool, evenings in the park. For the rest of us summer is a stir-fry of a wide range of emotions. We feel joy, panic, loss of routine, guilt, anticipation, dread. These are the moms I have in mind as I write this. I am that mom.

  • Gauge your expectations

I think it’s really important to think through your expectations for the summer. Are you expecting some lazy days? Are you hoping to get a lot of home projects done? Is this the time you’ve set aside to teach your kids to cook? What’s your energy level like? Do you need to plan in extended quiet times? Is your family planning on traveling this summer? Think it through. Be honest with yourself. Schedule a family meeting. Communicate with one another what you’re hoping for from this summer. Monitoring expectations in your own heart, but also in the hearts of your family members is key to summer success. Expectations can dash and disappoint or they can serve to create anticipation and joy.

  • Grace, Grace, Grace!

This is your summer. This is the summer you’ve been given. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. It can be as unique and interesting as you and your family. You can nap, or run, or hide in your bedroom for a few yours every other day. You can cry when your kids cry, scream when they scream, giggle when they giggle. This summer belongs to you. If a day goes awry —that’s ok. There’s grace wide enough for that. If you have a moment with your teenager that you regret–apologize, receive forgiveness. If you forget that you’re the adult for a spell–shake it off, choose to switch gears. There’s grace deep enough for that too. If nothing get’s done on your summer project list, don’t sweat it! There’s mercy that lingers for today and is new for tomorrow. You have what it takes to do this parenting thing with courage. Just show up. Pull your chair up to the table. Live in the grace that is present in each moment.

  • Resist Pinterest; Stay away from Facebook

I recommend severely limiting any type of social media that fosters comparison and secret maternal competitions. Seeing that your friend took her kids to an art class and the masterpieces they each produced makes your attempts to hand paper and paints and brushes to your kid with instructions to go outside seem minor and ineffectual. Watching your cousin’s vacation videos only serves to stir up envy and shame that you’ll never be able to afford to take your family to the same places. Even pictures of other families playing board games show the laughter and the joy, they don’t reveal the kid that storms off in anger, the older sibling taunting the younger for losing. Ugly moments don’t tend to get Instagrammed!

  • Screens aren’t as evil as they say—everything in moderation

Nothing brings on shame in parents quicker than admitting that their kid spent 5-7 hours watching TV or Netflix that day! I know because I’ve had that day. There’s nothing wrong with a little screen time. With Netflix and cable TV and a library full of movies we have endless options of good programming. Setting limits is probably a good idea but do so with grace and flexibility. Each day has enough worries of it’s own.

  • Books are better than screens

There really is nothing better than a good book. I love having my nose in a good book. I love it when my kids are all reading good books. Most local libraries have summer reading programs but if you don’t have access to a library or if your library doesn’t promote a summer reading program create your own! Set prizes and rewards for reading books. I know, theoretically the book itself is reward enough…but I’m not beyond bribery to help a kid live into that fact. We’ve even paid our older teens to read specific books on managing finances and creating budgets! If you’re stumped to know how to help your child find a good book there are countless lists available on line.

  • Summer Bridge

Early on when we first returned to North America I discovered Summer Bridge workbooks. These workbooks help a child stay tuned into math and reading. They prevent brain paralysis over the summer. Knowing my kids were spending fifteen minutes a day thinking made me feel better as a mom—and really, who are we kidding, that’s what matters!

  • Slow yourself down

This brings us full circle back to attending to our expectations. I think it helps to deliberately slow yourself down. It’s hard to herd cats. It’s hard to rush kids—of any age! Breathing slower. Relaxing your own pace helps significantly.

  • Boredom Busted!

Don’t fall for the Boredom blues! Boredom might likely be an indicator of a lazy brain or a restless spirit. One of my (many!) pet peeves is the line, “I’m bored!” Several summers ago I implemented the Boredom Buster jar. Every time a child of mine lamented, “I’m bored!” I pulled out the jar. In the jar I had written every conceivable chore I could think of –most were jobs I’d been putting off for ages, things I really didn’t want to do myself! Clean the ceiling fans, sweep the front porch, pull dandelions, empty the fridge and wipe it down, wash the stairs. For the first two weeks of that summer I got so much work done! After that the kids paused before singing the old “I’m bored” chorus, they found things to do on their own. My Boredom Buster jar encouraged creativity!

  • Plan in adult conversation

This is key! No matter the ages of your children, it’s vital to your sanity to ensure you’ve planned stimulating adult conversation into your week. Meet another parent and their tribe at the park. If you have older kids is there a mom out there with younger kids that you could connect with? Have your kids babysit her kids while the two of you connect over ice tea or frozen lattes. Plan it out. Knowing this is on the calendar will give you hope in the middle of another conversation about Sponge Bob Square pants or Dora the Explorer.

 

A Note to Moms who Work Outside the Home:

You women are amazing! Here are a couple of things I want to say to you in particular:

  1. Learn to marinate your soul in a daily GRACE wash. You are a good mother. Your mothering is broader than this summer.
  2. Arrange good childcare for your kids. Do what needs to be done to provide safe and healthy care for each of your children. It might look different for each kid each summer.
  3. Communicate that plan to your kids without apology.
  4. Don’t skimp on self-care and rest and adult conversation. This is vital to you continuing on in your mothering role with any amount of joy!

 

When the World Rushes too Fast

I went to my closet to pull out clothes to wear, going for the long pants and a warm shirt. “No”they screamed! “Don’t pick us! It’s too soon!” And I screamed back “It’s cold outside you idiots! I’m picking you.” 

Cold makes me a little crazy as evidenced by the conversation with inanimate clothes detailed above. And the world is rushing too fast! Summer should not be over. Not yet. Too soon.

I close my eyes and relive clear blue sky and perfect weather; long walks and talks with good friends; a fire on the beach with ocean waves breaking over rocks in the background and us roasting marshmallows and putting the hot, melted mallow over bits of chocolate, sandwiched between two graham crackers; laughing until our sides hurt and telling ghost stories with adult children.

Some summers are made to last forever, and this one was one of them. In a world that rushes too fast and puts productivity above relationships it is a gift to stop, look up and around, relax and enjoy.

When the world rushes too fast I need to stop. Because in the midst of that rushing I will miss things that are important. I’ll get the urgent things done, but I’ll miss those things that are truly important.

When younger moms ask me how to slow life, how I’ve negotiated the work/home dance I give them only one piece of advice – I tell them “Always ask yourself when you’re thinking about a job, about a change, about demands on your time – ‘who do I want to like me when I’m 80?’ because the answer is rarely ‘my work.'” 

And this summer I danced that dance and my family took the lead. There are times when I do have to give a bit more to work, and that’s okay. But overall, my priorities are, have had to be, home and family.

And so when the world rushes too fast, when it shouts its demands through loud emails, edicts, and busy schedules, summer is a time to retreat.

But now, the summer retreat is over and warmer clothes are screaming from the closet.

So we have said goodbye – goodbye to a summer of long evenings on the porch, walks to our favorite rocks at the end of the earth in Rockport, conversations with our kids shared over wine and cheese. We have entered a new season – an open season for us.

But when the world rushes too fast, as autumn gold chill replaces summer sunshine, when cold, grey winter comes with its melancholy, we still have our memories of summer.

Take a look at this video created by my daughter Stefanie! It captures some of our summer beautifully! https://vimeo.com/104361637

Summer. from Stefanie Gardner on Vimeo.

How do you stop the world from rushing too fast?

Summer Rest

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It’s summer and with it comes a chance to change things around, to do things a bit differently, to live out of the ordinary, to REST! I fear that if I don’t take this time then in a blink fall colors will roll in and I’ll scream up to the trees and the heavens – “It’s too soon! Give me back summer!” To this end I have compiled some quotes on rest – so today, a Thursday and the end of the week for many – may you bask in these quotes and take them to heart.

Life is too short to go crazy with busy.

“Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” ― Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

Busy has become like a security blanket. We wrap it tightly around us so that we can justify our existence. from The Security Blanket of Busy

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” ― John Lubbock, The Use Of Life

“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” C.S. Lewis

“I think I need some idle moments. In idle moments I can step back and “see the whole” not just the fragmented parts. In idle moments I can gain wisdom and a heart for people. In idle moments I can hear God.” – from In Praise of Idle Moments

“Because the culture we breathe and work in rushes against rest. It equates our worth with production and wealth and fame. The more we work toward those goals, the more society assigns us worth.” ― Mary E. DeMuth, Everything: What You Give and What You Gain to Become Like Jesus

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” ― Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions of Saint Augustine

Last Days of Summer

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This summer we have had many days where it’s always ten minutes before two in the afternoon.

Days where we are free of the burden of time and can rest our minds and our souls.

As the days get shorter, I feel the natural melancholy of another season ending, a new one beginning. Work has been busy gearing up for fall programs and trainings, we have only this weekend to enjoy Rockport before we hand over the keys to tenants, and two kids at home are beginning to pack for college.

Life moves forward and you either rebel and go nowhere or accept and move forward embracing a new normal.

And that’s why pictures are a gift; a gift for the memory when life gets cold and seasons move forward.

In honor of the last days of summer here are some glimpses of our moments where time stopped and rest happened.

Thanks for making Communicating Across Boundaries a part of your routine. It is a gift.

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Finding My Summer Book

Every summer one book emerges as “the book” of the summer. Last year it was The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit and the year before it was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. These books cut through the ordinary and take me to a world where I sit, grow, laugh, cry and emerge wishing they would last longer.

It’s not that these are the only books I read during the summer, rather they mix in with several, but while others may fly past my eyes and through my head with a laugh, blink and smile, these captivate my mind and capture my heart.

And this summer, without reading a page, I think I may have already found “the book”.  Called Novel Destinations, this book looks like a reader and traveler’s delight. It promises to take me through the homes, places and spaces of authors like Mark Twain and Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway and the Bronte sisters. It sounds like the perfect marriage for those who love both travel and literature.

The web site gives this invitation: Embark on the literary grand tour of a lifetime with Novel Destinations as your guide to the famed haunts, homes, and watering holes where beloved authors, from Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters to John Steinbeck and Mark Twain, sought solace and found inspiration. Sure to spark the imaginations of armchair bibliophiles and seasoned travelers alike are the hundreds of literary-themed activities featured in the pages of Novel Destinations,

I’ve ordered mine so stay tuned for a review. I look forward to immersing myself in Novel Destinations and dreaming of my next trip while basking in a space where it is always ten minutes before two in the afternoon.

So….during a season where we can traditionally kick off our shoes and sit awhile, what’s on your reading list? Do you have “a summer book” or do you fly through books, one after the other without needing to settle on a favorite? Would love to hear through the comments!

For more information on this book, take a look at the blog http://noveldestinations.wordpress.com/

A note about So.Many.Stories – if you have submitted an article to So.Many.Stories – please forgive my delay. I’ve received some great submissions and will be in touch with people as to when they will post. Thank you for your patience!

In Which it is Always Ten Minutes Before Two

We have a clock in our cottage in Rockport. It is a beautiful, handcrafted Provence style clock in blues and yellows;a perfect signature piece for the cottage. We purchased it a couple of years ago on a whim and a sale and have no regrets.

When on display in shops, clocks are often shown with the short hand pointed at the two and the long hand pointed at the ten. I’ve been told this is how you show a clock to its best advantage. (Who knew?) Since this was a battery operated clock, and unwilling to be stuck like a child on Christmas morning who longs to use a toy only to realize his parents have forgotten to buy batteries, we stopped and purchased a pack of AA batteries – Duracell for good measure.

When we arrived back to the cottage and I was ready to place it on that perfect spot on the wall, my husband and I looked at each other and made a decision: we would never put a battery in this clock. The time on this clock would never move. In the cottage in Rockport it would forever be ten minutes until two in the afternoon.

And so it has stayed. We have had guests come and go who have longed to put batteries in our clock, but we won’t let them. In a world filled with demands and stresses, productivity and deadlines, we have a place, a space where time stops. We will forever be at ten minutes before two.

It’s summer now, not the official summer that comes with solstice and a June 20th date, but the practical summer that begins on Memorial Day in the United States. Every day we have a little more time as it stays lighter longer. And in summer we need time to stop a bit, need life to slow down, need to take walks on beaches and stay up late on porches. I am so grateful to have a place this summer where it’s always ten minutes before two in the afternoon, where time stops and life happens; where we are given the grace of slowing down.

Do you have a place where time stops? Where you can relax so well that time no longer dictates your life? Would love to hear about it in the comment section.

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Packing Away Summer

English: The Eliot Bridge over the Charles Riv...

Old mattresses, chairs, small tables and boxes line the streets of Allston and Cambridge as the summer ends and fall begins. Fall brings thousands of students to the Boston area every year to attend the many colleges and universities that offer high school and college graduates bachelors and masters degrees, ranging from International Relations to Turf Grass Management(Really – I’m not kidding). The traffic is outrageous and it is not unusual for cars to take an hour to go 2 miles. During that hour the verbal abuse that is tossed around the streets would make a sailor blush.

Fall is beginning and summer is packed away. It’s a lot of packing. Slower pace, more time to read, longer days, and warmth of body and soul are wistfully put into boxes that will sit, hibernating as it were, through the fall and winter and begin itching to get out come spring.

When I first moved to the East coast after living in Cairo, I was unused to seasons and did not like them. Every September I would panic and begin to feel paralyzed when I anticipated first fall, then brutal winter where ice, snow and cold enveloped my world. I anticipated these changes so far in advance, imagining the very worst winters and muddiest springs, that I made myself crazy. My mother has often said, and I have probably quoted before in earlier posts:

God never gives you grace for your imagination. He gives you grace for the real thing!

As I pack away summer this year, both figuratively and literally, with sleeveless shirts and sandals going into an under bed container, and our cottage in Rockport being rented to strangers, I am encouraged by my lack of paralysis. I’m actually ok with this. I don’t completely dread winter, anticipating all the bad parts. I can’t wait for the crisp days of fall with its ever-changing colors of green, gold, orange and red and the fashion choices that were not possible living in warmer climates. In short, I’m learning really slowly about grace for the real deal and realizing that my imagination can make life far worse than it actually is.