Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer 2013: "Thou Shalt Have No Wasted Days!"

Summer vacation starts for us in two days. At noon, to be precise. And not a moment too soon, let me tell you!

Indeed, it's a very late dismissal this year because of a very snowy winter, especially the second half of it. All five allotted snow days were used, pushing classes much too close to the Fourth of July weekend for my liking.

What that means on the other end, of course, is that our break from school will be that much shorter. Only two months long, to be exact. And when I say "exact," I really mean it. Not one day extra, not one day less. Honestly, I think there might have been an uprising if summer vacation had been reduced any more.

Still, two months. TWO MONTHS! Ugh. I shudder to think about resuming the school-day routine on August 28 when the days are blisteringly hot and steamy.

Speaking of BLISTERINGLY HOT AND STEAMY, our weather of late has only compounded the agony of this extra week of classes (and Field Days and a field trip to Boston). Northeastern Massachusetts has felt more like Texas than one hour south of the northernmost state in New Engand. Today is the third day of a heat wave, generally defined in the region as three days in a row of 90-degree temperatures or higher. In fact, yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far with the mercury climbing to 95 degrees, tying the record for that day set in 1976.

With such an abbreviated vacation, parents may feel added pressure to make the most of it. I know I do. "Thou shalt have no wasted days." The Eleventh Commandment.

Like many -- dare I say, most? -- parents of school-age kids, I am DONE with the school year. Caught-on-fire-marshmallow-over-a-campfire done. I'm weary of getting up at a certain early time, preparing breakfast for the troops, making lunches or putting $2.75 in labeled envelopes for lunch money, choosing clothes for my boys to wear, reviewing their homework, and packing their backpacks. I've had enough hurrying off to school -- either walking or driving (when we're tardy). And I'm tired of having to race over to the school at 2:55 p.m. for pickup, followed later in the day by a sports practice or game, the making of dinner, and the overseeing of homework. Everything gets pushed back too far into the evening, cutting into my alone time.

As a full-time single mother coming up on a decade, I require "me time" to decompress -- and, at the risk of sounding too New Agey, get centered from my daily stress. Doing what I need to do to nourish my brain and/or senses -- whether that be Facebooking; reading a book, magazine, or news article; e-mailing; or watching TV (I've really taken to nighttime dramas with catchy one-word names such as Revenge, Nashville, Scandal, the now-canceled Deception, and Motive, my latest -- I stay up too late then predictably feel and look like the wreck of the Hesperus the next day.

Isn't what I really need sleep? Well, yes, yet I crave my quiet time after the boys have gone to bed. Anyway, I vow to do better the next night, but invariably it happens again and again and again. It's a vicious cycle.

Getting through the rigid school year requires discipline, adherence to a schedule, and tolerance of repetition. SO MUCH REPETITION! God Almighty. Personally, I prefer things to be loosey goosey. Get up whenever. Cobble together some random food. Roll down the driveway as the spirit moves me. Do I sound like a slacker bachelor? You have the right idea. I am the female equivalent. I just happen to have two children.

But not even the summer can be truly loosey goosey when said children are young, as mine are. They wake you with their noise. They need you to get them to their morning day camp at their school, of all places, making it feel awfully like a school-year dropoff. They need to be wearing clean clothes that they didn't wear the day before. They need to have money in their pockets for a drink and/or snack. They need you to pick them up at noon (or whenever, and from wherever). And they need you to deliver them to and from their next activity wearing the proper attire and carrying the proper equipment, if necessary. They still need to eat meals. They still need to be prompted to brush their teeth and bathe. And they still need to be coaxed into bed.

Loosey Goosey? Hardly.

Unless they go to sleepaway camp or spend a good part of July and August living elsewhere with a divorced parent or other relative, kids are generally home a lot more during the summer than the school year. And while that can certainly be wonderful, it can also be very challenging. Most parents need to work during the day, and they also need a break from child care. Siblings get on each others' nerves, especially in the very hot or rainy weather and when they are around each other too much because they don't have enough to do or enough to do separate from one another. Days can be long and arduous for parents when the squabbles and physical fights begin.

So while a school year is predictable, summer is more of an unknown quantity. It is also very individual. My family's summer will not look like your family's summer, and your family's summer will not look like your neighbors' family summer. But if you live in my community and send your kids to the public school like I do, then our summers will have one thing in common this year: they will be very short.

Make your summer a good one!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

When You Live Near Glostah

When you live near Glostah,
Your compost is made of lobstah.
Your neighbor's cat is Coopah,
And your favorite season is summah.

Your house is biggah;
Your daughter, prettiah.
Your marriage is strongah,
And you spend money freeah.

When you live near Glostah,
Your compost is made of lobstah.
Your neighbor's cat is Coopah,
And your favorite season is summah.

You are most likely blondah
as well as slendah,
certainly not dumbah.
You don't drive a Hummah.

When you live near Glostah,
Your compost is made of lobstah.
Your neighbor's cat is Coopah,
And your favorite season is summah.

You drink wine to numb yah,
Love to gossip -- or is it slandah?
But you call it the formah
Because that is so much safah.

When you live near Glostah,
Your compost is made of lobstah.
Your neighbor's cat is Coopah,
And your favorite season is summah.

You rarely make a blundah,
you around-town runnah,
hanging near the beach and harbah
in Tory Burch. How up-and-comah!

When you live near Glostah,
Your compost is made of lobstah.
Your neighbor's cat is Coopah,
And your favorite season is summah.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Parental Pride

I often write about the challenges of single parenting. The hiccups, ordeals, frustrations, and downright aggravations. They occupy a lot of my time. They can consume my thinking, and they often provide me with constant fires to put out.

But it is the moments of triumph that come amidst the problems and the plain-old mundane that make parenting so very worthwhile. They can be simple and small snippets of time such as watching my sons harmoniously practice making soccer goals together in the backyard or sending my older son off to school after a full night of sleep and confident he will do well on the MCAS exams required in Massachusetts. But sometimes they are much bigger accomplishments that take my breath away and give me a high the next day that rivals the ones gleaned from a fantastic date, an awesome concert, or arrival in a tropical paradise.

This week I experienced such a parenting high. And as is so often the case when a child achieves something spectacular, the road to the success was bumpy -- making the end result that much sweeter.

My older son hit a grand slam in a Little League game. With one out, two strikes, and bases loaded in his team's last up at bat, Christopher smacked a ball into left field behind third base. From my vantage point near first base, it looked like it would veer into foul-ball territory. It did not. Christopher rounded first and headed toward second. The ball hadn't been fielded yet from the outfield, so he kept running as his teammates and their parents cheered him on. He made it home just in time, outrunning the throw. His teammates poured out of the dugout to greet him, and I whooped and hollered out of pride and gratitude.

Having just returned from the town next door where my younger son was playing in his own Little League game, I only just barely saw Christopher's infield home run. I had parked, stepped out of the car, and immediately heard my son's name announced. ("Christopher Siems," mispronounced as "Seems," of course.) Chris was next at bat.

Wanting him to know I'd arrived, I called out: "Go, Chris! Watch the ball!" He listened. Boy, did he listen.

Chris came through in the biggest way possible. His hit raised the score from 7-2 to 7-6. Unfortunately, his team -- the A's or Athletics -- didn't bring in any more runs that final inning, so the A's lost the game against the Blue Jays. It didn't matter. In my book, my son had won BIG TIME.

As we ate celebratory sundaes at our favorite ice cream stand that afternoon, Christopher explained how he was able to hit the ball so well: a classmate's father had helped him with his grip prior to a game the day before that he had been invited to play in. That game was a AAA game, one level up from Chris's AA games.

The third-grade class at his school is so big that there were too many players who went out for the AAA. As a result, Little League officials drawing up the teams decided to place eighteen third graders on AA teams, which are made up of second graders. (Fourth graders fill out the AAA roster.) Parents were not notified of the split ahead of time. Instead, I learned about it when getting my son's team assignment.

Both Chris and I were disappointed the third graders had been separated, and that Chris had been put in the lower of the two levels. Before the season began, all the kids had tried out at an indoor facility and were ranked on ability based on their performance that afternoon. However, a kid can have a bad day or just be rusty from not having played baseball in nearly nine months. So it's an imperfect system.

Happily, though, Chris was called up by a AAA team to fill in for an absent player the very first weekend of play. Ranked at the top of the eighteen third graders in AA, he was among the first to be tapped for a call-up. It proved to be a great experience. The AAA coach is terrific, and several of my sons' friends are on the team. Meanwhile, Chris held his own and then some, hitting a stand-up double and RBI and later scoring the tying run before the next player came across home plate for the win. He did so well, in fact, that I asked the coach in all seriousness: "Can this be a permanent call-up?" Unfortunately, the answer was no. The system just doesn't work that way.

He didn't play as well the second time the same team called him up. But that game took place the day before he hit the grand slam in his AA game, so it proved to be a terrific warm-up.

In discussing the split of third graders with other parents at the beginning of the season, phrases like "big fish in a small pond" and "chance to shine" were bandied about in an attempt to put a positive spin on the fact that some children were assigned to a lesser team. But as the season draws to a close in less than two weeks, I'm finding these tritisms have some merit. A friend's son in AAA still feels intimidated by the power of some of the fourth graders and the speed at which they can pitch. Yet my son feels good as he strides up to bat. When he watches the ball and connects with it, his confidence soars. He is proving himself as a hitter and, as a parent, I couldn't be prouder.