making do

One afternoon when the boys knew screens were not an option, they wandered outside and then into the garage where they picked up the bow and arrow their grandpa had made a number of years ago. Determining it was time for an updated model, they come in to get the pocket knife. Then pretty soon they wanted to watch an instructional video on how to make a bow from a tree branch. I was invited to help with the project.

“I could give you a hug,” the teen said as he tried out the bow just after we had finished stringing it with baling twine. For someone who never willingly offers a hug, that was saying a lot. I never did get the hug, but I’m holding on to the sentiment.

the “good-byes” of June

“Good-bye is always hello to something else. Good-bye/hello, good-bye/hello, like the sound of a rocking chair.” – George Ella Lyon

This month we said good-bye to store-bought lettuce and hello to garden-fresh lettuce. The leaf lettuce volunteered in our plot this year, getting established in the cool spring before I got around to working the ground. I couldn’t bear to hoe it all up, so I left seven plants that were sort of clustered together. Since then, the sunshine and rain have tended them well.


Also in June, our oldest said good bye to his elementary school. “Earlier in the week, I thought I would be happy when school’s done. But now, I’m not so sure,” our fifth grader said in the car on the way home from school on his last Friday at Chelsea Heights Elementary. This fall, it’s hello middle school, but he’s going to put that thought off for a while. (Me too.)

We said good-bye to the school year routine. Hello, free time. The boys have enjoyed extended Lego-building sessions and have some great creations to show for it. Plus we’ve done a few of the things on our “someday” list, like a birding walk at the Bell Museum and a road trip to the Caddie Woodlawn House with my sister. The best part of that day turned out to be the visit to Devil’s Punchbowl and the “secret” waterfalls a bit farther down the road that we’d never have known about if we hadn’t stopped to ask for directions.


away at camp

Right now my older son is away at Camp Clair, the annual summer event my sister holds at her home for all her school-aged nieces and nephews.

“We’re going to miss you when you’re at camp,” I told our older son the day before he left.

“You’re going to miss me more than I’m going to miss you,” he said.

But by bed time he asked, “Is three days and three nights a long time?” This is how long Camp Clair will be this year.

“Not such a long time,” I said. “And you’ll be with your cousins.”

“I’m going to miss you. Are you going to miss me?” he asked yesterday on our drive up there.

“Yes, we’ll miss you, but Aunt Clair will take good care of you and you’ll have a good time.”

Now the house seems a little too quiet. Our younger son knew it would be. On the drive back home, he suggested we go somewhere else. There was no giggling at the dinner table. No one to compete with him for wrestle time with daddy. No one to ride around the parking lot with after dinner. He has asked several times about his big brother. For him, three days and three nights is a long time.

planning for an unstructured summer

We’re deep into summer vacation, my first with a school aged child. And I understand why moms don’t necessarily think of this time off from school as a vacation. Some moms cope by filling their child’s schedule up to the brim and driving them from one activity to another. But I’m of the view that kids need ample time for unstructured play. By unstructured I mean it isn’t led by grown-ups and it doesn’t involve screens or digital devices.

Kids need enough unscheduled time to get bored — so they can figure out how to pass the time themselves. If you have more than one child, this also tends to multiply the opportunities for conflict, another thing that kids need to learn how to deal with themselves. The earlier they learn these lessons, the better. The trick is to maintain our sanity during their learning process. Here are my tips for managing a relatively unstructured summer:

1. Sign up for a summer reading program. It’ll help keep you and your kids on track with summer reading goals. Spend some time each day reading to your kiddos, but change it up by having your kids read to you. Check out some read-along book and CDs from the library. Your kids can to listen to them over and over while you get other things done.

2. Assign chores when the bickering escalates. I often send the older one to his room to fix his bed when he needs some time to cool down. Other tasks to divert their attention include setting the table, sorting socks, or washing the dishes. Today I put them to work in the kitchen. They cleared their clutter off the floor, I swept, and then the older one washed the floor.

3. Create a system by which your child can earn computer time. In early May, when I grew weary of the repeated request to play games on the PBS Kids website, I came up with a list of tasks my son can do to earn stars. Once he has six stars he can redeem them for 15 minutes of computer time. (Chores assigned for disciplinary purposes don’t earn him any stars, however.)  So far, he’s been averaging computer time less than once a week. He knows what he can do if he’d like more, but at this point, he prefers to do other things rather than do household tasks to earn stars.

4. Go outside. It’s the best place to burn off some of that boundless energy. We’ve been gardening, climbing trees, kicking the soccer ball, riding bikes, and just running round.  My boys still need supervision when they’re outdoors, and so I try to delegate this responsibility to their daddy at least half the time.

5. Institute quiet time. With very rare exception, every afternoon from about 1:30 to 3:00 is quiet time around here. We plan our days around it; I need the time to get my writing work done. The 3-year-old usually takes a nap, but even if he doesn’t, he’s in his room. My kindergartner sort of forgot how this works while he was in school, so there’s been a bit of relearning needed whenever he wanders out of his room, but he’s getting the hang of it again. Kids need some time to themselves – and so do moms.


Yesterday we mixed up a batch of popsicles. What a hard lesson in delayed gratification for a two-year-old.

But they’re simple and fun–when they’re finally done. The Jello in them gives them a nice texture and prevents them from dripping so quickly. Here’s the recipe from my mom’s recipe box plus my “assembly” tips:

1 – 3oz. package strawberry gelatin
1 package of cherry Kool-aid mix
3/4 cup of sugar

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and pour in 2 cups of boiling water. Stir until gelatin is dissolved and then add 2 cups of cold water. Stir. Pour into about eight small paper or plastic cups (Ikea kid’s cups work well). Cover each cup with wax paper secured with a rubber band. Insert a popsicle stick in each. Aluminum foil would work as well, sans rubber bands. Freeze until firm.