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It was mid-July when the dreaded words began appearing all over my Facebook feed,
giving me hives: Back to school.
Back to school? No way!
Back to bed, maybe. Back to the pool, for sure. I'm only planning as far as my
next meal right now; I don't want to be reminded that in a little less than a
month life is going to turn on its head again.
Born at the end of summer
myself, August 30th, school never once started on or before my birthday. As a child, summer felt like the longest stretch of time ever—it erased all the challenge and effort of the school year, all the insults of the social hierarchy, which was stacked against those of us who were "weird."
Summer leveled the strictness of having to go to sleep before I was tired and rise before I was ready. But somewhere across the decades, some politician in an
air-conditioned office signed a paper that shortened our glorious, lazy summers
by no less than 20 to 30 days, depending on where you live.
We should just knuckle down and tackle the year straight through, like a marathon.
Each year my son
has been in school, I keenly feel the loss of so much important time with him,
the luxury of slowness, schedules that are more elastic and no battles to
finish homework. This is time I cherish for him to languish in the realm of his
imagination and grow new neurons; time for sensory stimulation that only
nature provides; time for mid-week lunches together and hours spent
swimming with his buddies.
The school board claims
to have given us back those stolen summer weeks throughout the year, which is a
lot like being given a case of milk when you can only drink a gallon: Two weeks
off at the holidays when a week would be plenty; two more random weeks, one in
February, another in April in which I have to scramble for childcare to keep on
working; scattered days off here and there that have no clear reason, and more
half days than I can count. I'm of the mind that we should just knuckle
down and tackle the year straight through, like a marathon. Give me
back days of abandon in hammocks and water.
Summer days are the
ones in which I watch my son sprout, physically and mentally. Suddenly he can
read everything he lays eyes upon: signs, magazines, emails and the scrolling
news bar on TVs. This recently turned 7-year-old is taller and his thoughts
are more complex. "I wonder what the first word ever spoken was," he said yesterday. "What if there was no pollution?"
(My son) will come home sweaty and grumpy because the bright blue skies will call upon him to play, not sit beneath yellow fluorescent lights. And we will both dream about summer.
During summer we get
into fewer arguments about what needs to get done. Unburdened by the pressure
of "have to's" my son brings his plates to the sink after meal without
complaint, feeds his cats in the morning without prompting and regularly
bursts into proclamations of "I love you, Mama" for no reason. Except, there is
a reason—we are both keenly sensitive to the ticking clock of the school year.
Though he loves to learn and needs the social stimulation, we both benefit from
the unstructured reality of summer life.
Summer works magic on all of us. My husband takes more days off
and comes home early. I abandon work to take my son to the pool, and we have
more moments of just hanging out together during that fertile realm of non-doing from
which great conversations and greater ideas spring.
When my son goes back
to school on August 13, it will still be too hot to wear pants,
and I'll put ice in his water cooler. Weekends will still find roads bumper to
bumper with coastal traffic as people hit the beach. I will still be drinking
cold white wine instead of red and eating light salads and grilled foods
rather than pasta and chili. I won't even break out my sweaters until
Halloween. It will feel like a joke, dropping my child off at his cement jungle
when it's 90 degrees outside. He will come home sweaty and grumpy because the
bright blue skies will call upon him to play, not sit beneath yellow
fluorescent lights. And we will both dream about summer.
So, meanwhile, I'm
going to keep turning a blind eye to the coupons offering me discounts on
back-to-school supplies and clothes, the exhortations that I should stop
enjoying this moment now, where a soft, warm breeze blows through an open
screen door, the white noise of the ocean lulling us into peace.
For all things, there
is a season. I'm dragging out my summer as long as I can.