Parenting

Rethinking summer

I haven’t written here in this space in several months. The Coronavirus quarantine has taken every ounce of my attention and effort. There are so many fourth grade homeschool posts I have swimming around in my head, but I find myself with very little alone time these days, and even less time to just think, so I may need to let them marinate a bit longer, or perhaps I should just let them go …

I wanted to write today about rethinking summer. The summer we face is very different than any other summer I’ve ever experienced. Here in Portland, Oregon our county has only just been approved for phase one of re-opening on June 19. We have been isolated in our home for over three months, save for a few cautious and well-thought-out outings. I appreciate living somewhere with leaders who believe in science and have been cautious during this time, but also this has been hard, especially for my extroverted child. It’s a tricky balance to figure out how to stay sane and also stay safe.

I think the first step in rethinking summer is to LET GO of the summer that isn’t going to happen. Our family was going to spend three weeks in Europe in June. We were going to spend our son’s seventh birthday on the banks of Lake Como. We were going to hike in the Dolomites and the Alps with our kids. That didn’t happen, and I’ve had to let it go.

That applies to everything else we’ve had to cancel – our oldest child’s first sleep away camp and her summer ballet intensive, the week where my big kids go to a day camp at our neighborhood park and I get a week to soak up my little one, the kids’ swim lessons at our neighborhood pool, my husband’s annual dude’s weekend with friends – we’ve had to let it all go. Feel the disappointment and then move on.

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Once we released what wasn’t going to happen this summer, it was time to think about how we could still make this summer special:

  • We bought bikes for our 10- and 7-year-olds and a balance bike for our 3-year-old and we’ve been enjoying bike rides around the neighborhood.
  • We took our Airbnb cancellation funds from a portion of our Europe trip and applied them to a stay on the Puget Sound at the end of the summer. The house has kayaks! I am so excited. 
  • We are hoping to buy an inflatable pool to jazz up the backyard this summer. 
  • We are growing a garden! I often plant very minimally for summer because I know we’ll be gone so much and the garden won’t get watered. This year we went all-in with zucchini, kale, cherry tomatoes, basil, mint, raspberries and blueberries. Once I harvest the garlic we planted last fall, I may even plant more!
  • We are visiting local u-pick farms. So far, we have already been picking twice! Once for strawberries and once for raspberries. This is something I love to do in summer, and yet we often don’t get to it because we are so busy. 
  • We are staying open to making last-minute plans. One of the beautiful things about a wide-open schedule is we can jump on an idea when it strikes. I decided very last minute that it would be fun to spend a night at the beach for Father’s Day and managed to book a room.
  • We are reading in the backyard in the mornings. I’m currently reading The Secret Garden to the kids and have several other books I’m excited to read to them this summer, including Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Borrowers and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. We’ve already read and enjoyed the Akimbo Adventures. Often times we are just too busy running here and there to consistently read during the day in the summer (we always read at bedtime).
  • We are keeping our social circle small. Because we have been extremely conservative with our forays out of the house, we feel safe seeing my parents, which means we can still see them for weekend dinners and send our kids there for an overnight every once and a while.
  • We are finding special ways to mark time here at home. I’ve declared Friday nights as a no-cook dinner night and a night my husband and I make a cocktail to kick off the weekend. We have movie nights and game nights on our calendar, just like I used to put out-of-the-house events on our calendar. We’ve also started doing a movie night with just our 10-year-old, after her siblings go to bed, so she has a chance to watch some films she is excited to see, like Star Wars and Harry Potter.
  • We are having date nights at home. About once a week we ask our 10-year-old to do bedtime, so we can watch a whole movie without falling asleep in the middle of it. Just that extra hour in the evening to be alone together feels special in this season of life.
  • We are not taking this time with daddy home for granted. I don’t think my husband has been home for this many weeks in a row since we became parents. He has always traveled for work, and that has been especially the case for the past four and a half years. We have been enjoying more meals together and my husband has stepped up and has been preparing more meals. He has also been taking a kid for a walk most mornings before work – rotating between them. It’s precious one-on-one time for all of them and I’d wager it will be one of their biggest memories from this time.
  • We are cooking up a storm! I’ve tackled some new projects that require being consistently home, like making water kefir and kombucha, making jam and dehydrating raw crackers. I recently bought myself a new cookbook and plan to learn how to make gluten-free sourdough.

A lot of our summer plans are about intentionality more than anything else. We could be looking at this as a summer we will be “stuck at home,” or we could think about how to make this slow season something special, even though we didn’t choose it. I have extremely fond memories of my childhood summers here in Oregon, and those memories are full of the same things I am planning for my children this summer: popsicles, squirt guns, kiddie pools, swimming in rivers and lakes, berries that never touch a container, time with grandparents and reading books in the grass. It’s going to be a good summer.

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