What do you do with summer? No matter your duty station in life, summer seems to universally present a change. Even with young children, who don’t provide the school/no school challenge, summer comes and thumbs it’s nose at me taunting, “You think you just got some semblance of order? Now what are you going to do?!” Menus change. Reading lists change. Activities change. Schedules change. That last one, for me, is a doozy, and I find myself echoing Maria’s sentiments as she gazes through the gates at the imposing von Trapp villa: “Oh, help.“
See, I am terrifically terrible at setting lines in my life. I don’t wear a watch. I rarely look at calendars. And, while I have been heroic in my efforts to incorporate a day planner into my life, there is nothing like a sheet of paper with lines labeled with the “o’clocks” to consternate me.
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
But life as a Catholic and a mom and a wife to a soldier has convinced me that order is necessary and, wonders-never-cease, enjoyable. Something I was willing to consider only after reading Holly Pierlot’s A Mother’s Rule of Life (*inserts shameless plug here*). Here enters my dilemma: if order was so difficult for me to establish in the first place, what am I supposed to do every time life changes? Must I sit down a create a new template every 3 or so years when we pack up our lives and follow the beat of the Army’s drum? Should I revise my draft whenever a child grows out of his sleeping/eating/pooping/playing schedule? And what do you do with summer?
This summer is our first summer in South Korea (compliments of the United States Army). It is my first summer with a both a toddler, who is running, and a baby, who is nearly ready to walk. We are all exploring our new space and our new skills of navigation at a rapid pace. Things are feeling a little chaotic with little time/energy left to pray and just when I have a sliver of time…WHO HAS TORN UP MY MAGNIFICAT?!?!?! It leaves very little time to determine and craft schedules. After coming to the realization that I was spending an inordinate amount of time worrying over this, I remembered that summers as a child were wonderful because they flowed on a much looser framework. Order consisted of mornings at the pool for swim lessons and afternoon in the yard. Everything else just fit into place.
As a mom, I’ve found that responsibility creates a need for a little more structure, but the principle remains the same: looser framework. The trick, for me, becomes not falling into sloth (both spiritually and around the house) but at the same time not becoming hung up by a million tiny details. So from my chaos to yours, here are five things that are working particularly well for me:
1) a holy card clipped by the kitchen sink
Nothing like a reminder of the Holy Family to remind me what we are working for and to give me a little prayer poke.
2) a laundry hamper in the kitchen
Weird, yes, but we do all of our living there and I have kids who dirty and shed clothes without ceasing. Having a hamper there means that their costume changes don’t add to extra clutter, and it’s an added benefit that stray socks and used kitchen towels have a convenient resting place as well.
3) the swim bag, packed and ready to go by the door every night
As SOON as we get home from swimming I throw swim trucks, swim diapers (cloth), and swim suit into a cold/no detergent wash, let air dry, and then pack back up. I’ve tried procrastinating on this, but I don’t need to go into how gross the swim bag smelled…
4) a wearable rosary
Mine is a full 5 decades on stretchy cord that wraps around my wrist, but I think a decade bracelet rosary would work just as well. Peggy Bowes has been a fantastic inspiration for me this summer. (*shameless plug for The Rosary Workout*)
5) walk, walk, walk
This one, at this duty station as well as our last one, has been from necessity rather than active decision. We only have one car, and rather than get stuck at home…
The benefits of this have been great. I get exercise. My kids get a nap if they are tired. I have time to pray at least part of the Rosary.
Most days — especially if my husband has the car — we walk to play groups, story time, daily Mass, the store (for as many non-perishable items as we can fit in the bottom of the stroller), the pool, and wherever else needs walking to. I cannot emphasize the good that has come from this, not the least of which comes from being out-of-doors and away from the TV.
This walk provides the structure for our day. We get up, eat and I caffeinate. We tidy up a little (read: we usually leave the apartment with it looking like a toy tornado swept through). We are out the door no later than 0900 (unless we forget shoes or sunglasses or water…ok, ok 9:15!). We go to the places we need to go (and they nap when and if they need to nap) most days ending at the pool. We walk home. Since the boys have been out all day, they are usually content to play with their toys and help me around the house, have at least two full scale battles over their toys, and whine over an infinite number of things while I fix dinner (if you were reading this article hoping to find out how to have perfect children, you will find no answers here — I think I need Dr. Ray Guarendi on speed dial!). I am under no illusions that this will work for us forever. As time passes there will, God willing, be more children and older children and different activities that need doing. For now we are blessed to have this — and yes, I still register shock when I hear myself say that we are blessed to only have one car.
Before discovering this solution, I was fretting over the chaos of our days. In my searches for a solution for a better prayer life, I discovered a site on being Catholic in summer. I blogged about the stress of finding faith in summer. I found inspiration at Amongst Lovely Things and Like Mother, Like Daughter. And I prayed for help in balancing my polar tendencies toward control freak (in one direction) and lazy bum (in the other). It’s feast or famine, you know, with both extremes being the famine and balance being the feast. We are still experiencing some days that are rough and chaotic as I struggle with my fallen nature. Thankfully, however, our summer is taking on an over-arching theme of simple structure, while we banish the summertime blues, revel in the chaos, and find a little bliss.
What home remedy cures have you found for the summertime blues?
Maia, what a fantastic post! I feel exactly the same way with summer schedules, and I love how you tied it to my favorite movie, The Sound of Music. Many thanks and blessings to you and your husband for your service to our country. As a military wife, I know firsthand the sacrifices you make. Also, thank you for your mention of my book. I’m so glad it has inspired you!
I love your tips! (My laundry hamper is in the kitchen too) I’m finding my self a bit envious of your long days walking, I know I could do the same myself, but I’ve always come up with excuses for why it would be to exhausting. It sounds as though it would be worth it though. 🙂 We also have only one car, and I often use it as an excuse to stay home and be reclusive. Thanks for inspiring me to get out a bit more.
Love the tips, Maia. I’m with you on #5 (also only have 1 car), but our current duty station threw us a curve-ball. It has been in the 100’s, I’m pregnant and almost everthing is too far away to walk, let alone push 2 growing boys in the jogger. =( We have been getting out whenever it’s even a little cool outside (think low 90’s). Otherwise we do a lot of reading, crafting, cooking indoors =)
Peggy, thank you!
Young Mom, I hear ya! I try to have something that we NEED to walk to, which helps us get out the door. On the days when we don’t, it can be a struggle — but the days seem to expand when we are home all day.
Elisa, heat or pregnancy on their own can throw curve-balls! I wrote this post at the beginning of summer. Right NOW we are in the middle of heat and humidity and monsoon season. Think really sticky, really hot, and then all of the sudden you are drenched. (And then hot and sticky again.) Home days happen!