summer vacation

8 Goals for Back-to-school

Back-to-school. The buzz, panic, duties, anxiety. The routine, brain power, confidence. In a word association game, the response to “back-to-school” would elicit numerous responses. My back-to-school started in the spring. It was a calm revelation that happened in the van. When I opened the door and had one leg in, I noticed rosary beads on the rear-view mirror. And in the tumultuous decision-making about which school the boys will go to in the fall, that rosary confirmed it: Catholic schools for both of them. I’m not Catholic. I closed the door on that silver van and walked two cars down to my own silver van.

A major change takes energy. We needed a powerful hibernation or building of strength for back-to-school in the fall. Positive affirmation, self-confidence, mindfulness. Hard-hitters, yet our mantra was...

On a recent gorgeous summer outing at a lake with several adoptive families, a friend summed up the summer well, "It's been a good summer. We've had one enjoyable event after another." As have we. Consequently, we shouldn't lament too much about this thing called back-to-school, right? It's the cadence of the season: With children, it will happen over 12 seasons.

Yet emotion took over reason last week when I felt a build in the momentum. One box of school uniforms arrived. Yesterday another. We have school supplies for Liam but not yet for Will. The last camps for summer will finish next week. Labor Day, September 1st, is early this year. School starts the day after.

We have a few weeks, and the days will fly. I’m not excited about putting Dream and Relax in a box. I’m not looking forward to the spin we enter September 1st and the dizziness we feel by October 1st.

What I want for my family this back-to-school season is this…

Simple Summer Vacation

We caught a short, early summer vacation last week. All I wanted was simple quiet for a few days. I found an original "Cape Cod beach cottage" in South Yarmouth. The little cottage hadn't been touched structurally since it had been built in the 40's or 50's. The black vinyl "46" on the door frame was anchored above a painted-over "9." While the other cottages had been built around, up, or over, ours sat a bit curmudgeonly on a corner lot. To all that fluff around it: Bah humbug. It was still "9."

The charmed simple pine wood walls were dotted with original windows. Each had a one pull/push peg hold-and-lock system. Up for a breeze & down for warmth. The old painted wood floors, area rugs, and vinyl rang out, "I'm OK with sand."

Weeks before the trip, I made a decision: This was going to be an electronics-free trip. I confided in Bill. "Good luck with that." (He wasn't coming down until the last half of the week.) I shared the plan with Will a few days before. After a couple moments to process: "OK. I can do that." I told Liam an hour before we left... "What?!?!"

I packed the van to the gills with building blocks, craft supplies, swords and shields, and books. Drawing paper, beach gear, puzzles, and books. A magic kit, coolers of food, pantry goods, and books. Toilet paper, soap, clothes, and books.

I didn't pack computers or iPods. I didn't turn on the GPS as we left our house. The boys had maps of the Cape and written directions. Once in South Yarmouth, their voices navigated me to the cottage.

That evening, we each carved out a niche, and we read. The calm. The next morning, more of the same. Why did it feel so relaxing?

Mid-week, I figured it out. Leaving electronics at home meant there was an omission of relentless, needling questions: "When can I get on?" "It's 8 a.m., can I play now?" "How long can I play?" "Why won't you let me play more?" "Can I play in the morning and then again in the afternoon?"

This electronics-driven sub-language wasn't spoken for a week. That quiet lull was bliss.

(More about this place: The Beach Cottage.)