Summer Vacation Approacheth

Now that June is here, my kids have been ticking off the days left until summer vacation. My daughter’s last full day is next Tuesday. After that she only goes in for exams. School officially ends on June 21st. That is the morning of my son’s moving up ceremony- his final day of middle school. So as the countdown narrows, I am taking a few minutes to reflect on what summer vacation means from different perspectives.

First of all, there is no doubt that kids love summer vacation. I still remember some of the lyrics to the song my friends and I sang on the way home from the last day of school: “No more pencils, no more books…” (I’m sure you can fill in the rest, even if you liked your teachers). I think the carefree attitude of summer is conveyed perfectly in the soothing, lullaby-like melody and lyrics in George Gershwin’s “Summertime” from “Porgy and Bess” :

“summertime and the livin’ is easy

fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high”

[found on http://www/lyrics.com]

Doesn’t that create the picture of kids running through the fields, or casting  a line in the water, like Huckleberry Finn?

Or how about kids splashing in the mud?

Now, obviously, not all parents have that same feeling of ease when it comes to the length of the summer break. In the month before school ended many of my friends, both working and stay-at-home parents, scrambled to patch together a series of day camps for their kids to attend- either out of necessity or because they dreaded having to entertain them all day long. I totally understood how they felt, since I taught little kids for ten months of the year. It is challenging to keep them happy and out of trouble at the same time.

However, I actually looked forward to the summer. I saw my kids’ vacation as my chance to spend more playtime with them. We often went to the playground or pool where we would just hang out for the afternoon. Sometimes we would participate in a family nature program at our local park, or they would take swimming or tennis lessons. We would take trips to the museum on hot days and usually a week or more would be spent at the beach- collecting snail families or building sand castles.

Before we knew it, summer was ending and we were doing our back to school shopping.

When they got older, they became interested in going to day camps with their friends. I would let them choose 2-3 week’s worth of activities, but after that we would mostly invite friends over or travel somewhere. A few times they brought a friend camping

or we would take a group to an amusement or water park.

I tried to keep the fun, unstructured feeling in summer; but coordinating with other families required making a schedule, which eliminated the laid-back spontaneity I wanted. My friends who worked through the summer, however, appreciated my willingness to have their kids over and drive them to activities. I always felt it was the best of both worlds.

All the grandparents also looked forward to summer vacation. To them, summer meant more time with the kids. Whether the whole family was visiting, we were taking a vacation together, or the kids were staying with them alone summer was an opportunity for extended bonding, when no one was rushed or preoccupied with schoolwork.

There have been many ping pong matches, late night movies, shell collecting, baseball throwing and family story-telling. These are the experiences that make memories and reasons why summer can be delightful!

This summer, my kids have a 2-week period when they will be away from home. They have separate plans during the same time. This means that my husband and Iwill have 2 weeks to ourselves for the first time. Maybe that is my summer vacation from being a mom 24/7 and I should see it as a much deserved break. Or maybe it is a hint of what the empty nest will feel like in not so many more years.

That last thought makes me feel more strongly about the importance of family time during the summer months and the determination to keep it fun and filled with good memories, moments we can all look back on and smile, releasing the happy feelings from our hearts, “those were the days”. We can never get too old to enjoy our summer vacations.

That’s me, the second from the right, with my sisters and cousins at a family reunion. It is always fun to get together!

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Snow Day…almost

Every kid lives for snow days. When the weather forecast calls for snow or ice, certain rituals need to be performed to bring on the snow. Wearing pajamas inside out, making snow angels under your sheets, putting a pair of mittens under your pillow. Even my teenagers follow some of these practices. Hey, you never know- they just might work.

Yesterday afternoon was sunny and in the 30’s. A beautiful time to be out walking,  admiring the green ferns and moss valiantly growing in the middle of January. My husband was so proud to still be harvesting brussels sprouts for dinner!  How a few hours changes everything…

In the middle of the night, the freezing rain hit followed by an inch or so of snow.  It wasn’t enough to close school, but I did get a text alert that school was delayed 2 hours. Not exactly a snow day, but when I went into my kids’ bedrooms with the news, I heard some mumbled cheers from them before they rolled over and went back to sleep.  My neighbor’s elementary school children, however,  didn’t waste any time getting outside in the snow.  I think if it hadn’t been raining, they would have played for an hour. Oh the excitement of snow- especially when it is enough to delay school!

Torn in Three Directions

How do you know if you are a member of the Sandwich Generation? When you feel yourself being pulled in opposite directions at the same time.

Like today, for example.  My husband and I had plans to meet with our financial advisor while the kids were in school. After the appointment, I had  made a lunch date with my father and was going to assist my mother with her car battery. I was also trying to keep to my routine of yoga followed by some writing. None of this plan felt outside of my realm. I am very organized and had everything under control. But, as anyone with kids knows, well-laid plans can quickly change.

This became apparent when  my son woke up with a migraine and nausea and has needed my attention.  Instead of putting him on the school bus, I have been trying to soothe him and give him medication to ease his pain. In a few minutes I will bring him some warm broth to drink. All the while he is so apologetic for causing me trouble. How do I answer that? Isn’t caring what moms do best? I just want to be there and make him better.

But now I am torn. I feel badly leaving him on his own when he is so miserable, but I have already rescheduled with our planner twice; and my father is leaving for his winter residence in another week so it could be one of the last chances to see him. How does the middle generation keep it’s head on straight? Talk about multi-tasking…. I’m even trying to squeeze in this blog. Finding the right balance in life is complicated. I care so much about everyone and I love my family deeply. It so hard to take a deep breath and step back,  line up our priorities. And how do we do that? How do we choose which tasks are more important? Are they the ones that involve caring for people or accomplishing things? And what do you do when there is a time limit?

It all comes down to choices and doing the best you can. You can’t give your all to everyone, but you can strive for quality over quantity. So how is this for a solution? I’ll care for my son until I have to leave (he’s asleep right now so I can do my blog); I’ll head to my meeting (which I do not want to cancel for a third time), and then keep my visit with  dad short but sweet. If I don’t get to the battery, I can probably find another day to do it. I’ll feel better getting back home to check on my child.

A New Year for Growth and Change

   My kids have been back to school for almost a week now. They are getting adjusted to their daily routine and I am trying to find my own rhythm. For the last 9 years, I have enjoyed teaching pre-school. Four and five-year olds can be so inquisitive and eager to learn new things. It was a great experience for me and I occasionally run into a student or parent who remembers me. I love to hear how they are doing and think that I played a small part in their lives.
    Every September, I started out with a fresh crop of students-all of different personalities and levels of readiness. By the end of the year, they were very comfortable with themselves and ready to move on to kindergarten. I was proud of my accomplishment.
    However, this year I decided to step back for a time. I feel there is something else I want to do, more people I want to reach. So here I am blogging my thoughts on this webpage as I attempt to determine what the next steps in my career will be.
    I decided to name my blog the Middle Generation, because like many of you I am a mom with older parents. My kids are now teenagers and my parents are very active in their own lives. However, I feel as if I am juggling my attention between the needs of my kids and the obligations I feel to look after my parents.
    My parents are dealing with cataracts, knee replacement, insomnia, arthritis and weight, as well as some nerve-wracking blood tests as they age. At the same time, my kids have reached a stage where their grades actually count. My oldest one will be driving in a year and looking at colleges in two. My younger one is gaining his independence on his bike or online (I’m not sure which is more dangerous).
    I plan to use this blog as a way to talk about subjects on both sides of me, and figure out how to find time for myself- both  physically and emotionally. Thanks for joining me on my journey.