dear summer-weary mom (from one to another)

image from unsplash.com

July has felt like the longest month. I’m ready to flip the page on my calendar, and we’ve still three days left, including today. But who’s counting?

Well, to be honest, I am. And I think a lot of my other moms are, too. I get to this place and feel surprised by it every summer. It’s the place in summer where my fun has worn out, as well as my creative parenting energy; and it’s very very hot; and my kids are bored; and school isn’t quite yet close enough – but it’s creeping up in a way that feels rushed and oppressive. It’s the pressure of, “I want to fit all those summer projects and day trips and visits in but oh-my-goodness there isn’t enough time for it all, and I certainly don’t have enough energy (that wore out a few weeks ago).”

When my twins were old enough to be school-age, this switch happened for me – where fall is what I began to look forward to, because it meant a routine for all of us and a break for me and learning and friends and an amazing teacher (or two) for my girls. By spring, I get a weariness from all of the school year activity and feel ready for the quieter, slower rhythm of summer. But by mid-to-end-of-July, I’m ready for summer to be done. Although my kids won’t as readily admit it, they are too.

How did I know I was here again? Meaning, this place of summer-weariness common to moms of school-age kids? My anger and frustration and irritability kept creeping up, until it reached a boiling point this morning, and I lost it. Ironically enough, we were trying to fit a lot of things into today’s schedule, and I was mentally trying to coordinate whether the dog would be let out midday while we’re gone (and by whom), what time I needed to drop each daughter off at their activities for the day so that I would make it to work on time, and then what the other end of the day would look like. What time is today’s camp pickup, and what had my friend graciously offered in terms of when to pick up my other daughter from her house? (Or were they meeting me at my house?) Not to mention, did I have my lunch? What about my girls – do they have lunches if they need them and water bottles? Did she take her pool bag with her? And which stores do I need to try to swing by – squeeze in between the running and picking up of my kids and coming home from work and preparing dinner and our home to host friends for dinner?

So dear summer-weary mom, you’re almost to the finish line of this summer, and you don’t have to muster up the strength to make it through this last stretch on your own.

You’re not alone (even when you want to be – ha!). But seriously, know that up and down the streets of your neighborhood, the corridors of your apartment, the lanes of your farmhouse out in the country – there are other moms trying to make it, too. We’re in this together, and maybe my weariness and *feeling* of being in it alone means I should reach out honestly to a fellow mom – and share the understanding that what we’re experiencing isn’t uncommon. Maybe you fill up that backyard inflatable pool or bust out the slip n’ slide and invite her and her kids over. Maybe you make lemonade and dump out the Legos container and let your kids entertain themselves a bit while the mamas discuss whatever adult topic seems good. Maybe you meet up with a friend after work for an hour or two before heading home. And maybe – if your personality is (like mine) craving people-free time by this time of a summer with “all the people” – steal away for an hour or two to a favorite place and just bring a book, or a journal, or a sketchpad. (Swap with another mom-friend craving as much solitude as you are …. or find someone craving little-people time because they don’t have any of their own in their home.)

And breathe. Right now, take three deep breaths and remind yourself that you are loved by the God who sees into your weariness and seeks to strengthen you by His grace.

You’ve got this! Because He’s got you.

Five Minute “Friday”: TEN (things a mom needs for summer survival)

Every week it’s fun to join in with the Five Minute Friday writing community – 5 minutes unedited on a prompt given by Kate Motaung. Our rhythm is so off that I legitimately thought today was Friday until realizing that tomorrow is Sunday, making today Saturday. So another post-Friday FMF post, with a connection to summer.

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TEN {things a mom needs for summer survival}

1. A plan – For me, it’s notes jotted into a small journal with a rough outline for each week, including things like which movies are playing for $1 and which crafts I might attempt.

2. Ice cream. Enough said, right? We’ve tried to even make a homemade version.

3. A summer bucket list. See photo. It’s a reminder of the fun things we want to fit into this space. IMG_8875

4. Regular trips to the pool. We’re members of the Y. Everyone gets sunshine and exercise and a change of pace.

5. Play dates – they need time to see their friends, too, as they’re missing the school-year routine.

6. Ladies’ nights out – Such a proponent of this, but especially for summers when it can feel more isolating than usual.

7. Mom-cation – See above. Last week, I took a 48-hour solo trip to Philadelphia and NYC to see U2 live in concert at Madison Square Garden. Incredible show. Absolutely worth it.

8. Good books

9. Soul-food – And by this, I don’t just mean watermelon and baked beans. I mean food for your soul. A friend and I are studying Isaiah with this excellent study by Kathleen Nielson.

10. A countdown calendar – As a way of remembering that yes, these days and weeks will pass, and it will be helter-skelter fall again and then winter when you’ll miss the warmth and unscheduled days.

On my bookshelf, summer 2015 edition

Last year, I was a bit ambitious about my summer reading list. Therefore, I’ve paired it down a bit this year. These seven should be do-able. Here is what I’m looking forward to about each one:

1 – Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin: This is a primer on how to read and study the Bible. From what I’ve read so far, it’s like my seminary courses in one much-easier-to-read place. I’ve met Jen through The Gospel Coalition and heard her speak a few times. I love her passion for people and for women to be biblically literate. Amen to that!

2 – Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card: My husband is a sci-fi guy, and he told me that since I liked Ender’s Game so much, I would also enjoy Ender’s Shadow. It’s been a page-turner so far, one that keeps me up way later than my bedtime.

3 – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo: This Japanese organizer’s primer is making its rounds among my friends and the top-seller lists. I was thrilled to receive this book as a gift from my BFF and hope that it will help me to simplify my home as its radical premise claims.

4 – Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman – I’m reading an advance copy and you will be hearing more about this as the publication date draws near (early August). Freeman is a favorite author and blogger, and I can’t wait to enjoy this new book of hers. It made my day when it arrived in the mail yesterday.

5 – Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist – Her writing style is vividly poetic and her stories ring true and honest. After enjoying her first book, Cold Tangerines, I had to put this one on my list, too.

6 – Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson – She’s the co-author of a favorite motherhood book, Desperate (with Sarah Mae). And full disclosure: as a Tyndale House Blogger, I chose this one to review. Several months ago – so it’s time! She’s a veteran mom with biblical wisdom and a mentor’s heart, and the title alone begins to help me show up in my life as it is.

7 – The Writing Life by Annie Dillard – As a writer, I need to read Annie Dillard. And what better place to start than this collection of her writings about writing?

when you dread summer (and not for the obvious reasons …)

I’ve been procrastinating this post for awhile. It feels like if I don’t write it, it won’t be true. Yet we all know that’s about as effective as saying you’re not hungry when your favorite dessert shows up on the after-dinner tray. (I caved and totally ate the peanut-butter pie while out for dinner last night.) Sometimes I wonder if I’m too negative or brooding. But, hey, that’s what writers are known for, right? And add “counselor” to my job description, and it’s a wonder I don’t spend all my moments looking at/being weighed down by the dark side of life. For there is much darkness that is real. And yet the light wins in the end, and I have hope that it’s already breaking into this broken-down world. 

But sometimes the weight of all the burdens catches up with my soul. And I’ve felt like I can’t quite rise to the occasion of being fully present in my life lately. Part of it may be “compassion fatigue,” experienced by full-time caregivers, health providers, and ministers. That would fit my life description since as a mom to 4-year-old twins, pastor’s wife, and counselor, I am all of the above. So I’m sure that’s a portion of the mist that seems to shroud the days.

Yet I’m also a girl who *loves* summer and all that it means. Beach days, bright sunshine, late sunsets, crickets’ songs and lightning bugs. This year I cannot seem to rise to my usual “summer love.” And it bothers me. Winter blues? Well, I always expect those. But summer doldrums? They’re foreign to my existence. Sure, summer is different now since having children because these are weeks and months without the break of preschool for them. My summer reading (and project) list must be shorter now than the fall-winter one, because I actually have less time alone rather than more. But this alone doesn’t seem to explain the low-grade numbness I feel (if numbness can be felt).

Then I consider our recent history – the history of my church community. And tragedy seared us about midway through last summer. I find myself cringing within, emotionally bracing for impact as the season turns and it’s summer again. It was a beautiful, typically-bright July afternoon when trauma struck through the deaths of a mom and her daughter, leaving darkness in its wake for the surviving husband/father and daughter/sister. It was one of the greatest privileges of our lives for my husband and I to be able to be first responders to their grief. To sit and cry with them when it was all so fresh and so confusing. To simply offer our presence and our tears. It has been beautiful to watch our community of faith surround them and carry them through this past year. It has been evidence of God’s grace to witness the strength of these two as they have learned how to do life anew together.

And because of the carrying-with of their grief, traces of those tears still remain in my heart and soul. I would have it no other way. That combined with a year of nonstop everything and insufficient rest is probably contributing to the distancing I feel from what’s good and true and beautiful of life, and of summer particularly.

What will be the path of finding my way back to joy? Of refusing to let darkness write the story of this summer through the never-ending dread? It will be simple yet difficult. Putting one foot in front of the other. Speaking of my struggle while it’s in the present (not waiting for the retrospective – “it’s all over and here’s how God met me”). Creating structure for my soul and our family that includes lots of rest, refreshment, and fun. Soaking my soul in the words of hope whether I feel like it or not. Words like,

“In this world you will have trouble. But, take heart, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Yes, dread is a normal emotional response to past trauma, and yes, compassion fatigue calls for rest and a break, but no, it won’t have the last word. Jesus has overcome whatever it is you and I dread. This is reason for hope. Hope that looks like walking out of the mist and embracing what’s good and real and true about life, especiallysummer.

Aaahh … summer!

It’s past 8 o’clock and there is still enough light outside to last for at least an hour. I love summer for its long hours of daylight and more frequent sun-filled days. There is usually a relaxed pace (except the summers when we’ve moved – 2006, 2009, 2010) and all of life seems to slow down to a “right nice comfortable pace,” as we say in the South. And, yes, you better believe it’s capitalized down here.

And the BEACH. We *heart* the beach. It’s one of the few common interests that Seth and I share. That and theology and philosophy of life and parenting and marriage and love. We say that we agree on the big things, and sanctify each other in the myriad other small things. We had to take a break from our frequent beach trips the past three summers – #1 because I was majorly pregnant with twins and on bed rest (and didn’t want to go anywhere anyway), #2 and #3 because babies who eat sand and toddlers who run away from you toward the ocean tend to interfere with the idyllic beach days that we remembered. Now they’re finally able to entertain themselves and we’ve learned how to enjoy the beach from an almost-three-year-old’s perspective.

Summer is the time of peak fruits and vegetables, and so we are savoring bright berries in abundance and veggies on the grill. The temperature is just nearly perfect tonight – hanging out between 70-80 degrees, although once it reaches 90-100, I’ll probably be singing a different tune about summer’s glories. And so (call us crazy), we think it will be a good time to try out potty training again. Worst case scenario, we can take the girls to the beach for it so that we don’t have to clean up the accidents. (Just kidding … mostly.)

It’s a season of parties, barbecues, cookouts, lingering hours outside with neighbors and kids. There is just something inherently hopeful about summer. This season reflects God’s glory in its brilliance. Which is always present even when hidden by the short, dark days of winter. And how I need to remember that! What a mercy of God to give us such a season.

What do you enjoy about summer?