Savoring summer

There’s something so sweet about Memorial Day weekend. Summer is fresh and young. The days are still getting longer; any nip in the night air is just a reminder of the winter that is now safely past.  The trees are full and thick, but still tinged with light green new growth. The roses are out. So is the honeysuckle. The world is full of flowers and possibilities.

I’ve spent much of my adult life thinking about how best to use my time, mostly because life is lived in hours. We only get a certain number of those hours and days — a certain number of summer evening hours, a certain number of strawberry seasons. I’ve always known that, of course, known it on some level as I’ve said goodbye to various older folks I’ve known. But for some reason this year, perhaps because of some goodbyes for people who were not so old, it a little deeper. I and everyone I know will die, and I have no idea in what order. So how does that universal truth shape how you spend your limited hours?

Ideally, you should savor them. But the challenge of life with small children (mine are 5, 2.5 and 8 months) is that savoring all those hours is just not humanly possible. The children whine. They bicker — which can turn even an hour into an eternity. They run away from you in public places, or otherwise turn what would be quite fun (a margarita in a restaurant on a Friday night) into a stressful situation. But staying home all the time isn’t a great way to savor summer either. So, this weekend, we did try to err on the side of doing a lot. Here’s what that looked like.

I’m a planner, and knew I wanted to do a few things: go to the beach, go strawberry picking, and go visit some friends on Monday. With those three ideas as anchor points, we then had a lot of spontaneity around that. Friday evening we went to a Mexican restaurant that’s near our house for dinner and drinks — eaten swiftly because of aforementioned stress of having three kids in a sit-down restaurant. After, we drove to Wissahickon park, and walked along the river, enjoying the summer evening light.

Saturday morning, I got up early with the baby and 5-year-old and pushed them both in the jog stroller for a short run. By myself it would have been an easy one. With 60 lbs of kid in a double stroller, it was a bit more strenuous! I planted some wildflowers in the yard, then we drove to Ocean Grove, New Jersey, where we played on the beach for a while (it was kind of cold), got ice cream, and then pizza. In that order. Hey, it’s summer, right?

Sunday, I got up to feed the baby at 6, then handed her over to my husband, and slept until 8. Lovely. We went strawberry picking at a farm about 30 minutes from our house. I love strawberry picking. I’m kind of obsessed with strawberries from an aesthetic standpoint (I have paintings of three of them on my walls) and I had been really looking forward to this. The older kids had a good time. We got to ride in a hay wagon to the fields! But it was burning hot in the strawberry rows, and the baby was not willing to stay strapped to me as I picked the fruit. It was non-stop howling. We managed to get a big box picked, nonetheless, and I bought some honeysuckle soap in the gift shop in an effort to add some summer happiness to my showers. After a brief respite at home, we drove to Valley Forge park and alternated running and directing the kids in their tricycles along the path. Brutally hot still, so that was a short run. Then off to Costco for a bit of patriotic bulk shopping including new summer pajamas. We had hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner and ate them outside, but the 2.5-year-old screamed during dinner (he’d fallen asleep on the ride home from Costco and we woke him up). So that was kind of an attempt to savor the summer evening that didn’t really work.

Monday we drove to New Jersey to visit some friends. We had a great time with the kids all playing together. Home again for a dinner of scallops and tomato salad, and then I went for a run on this new trail route I’m really excited about. Forty minutes, very close to my house, and for much of it I’m practically in the wilderness. Beautiful. Every few hundred yards I’d turn a corner and the scent of honeysuckle would waft over me from a nearby bush. I came home and dished up ice cream to the two older kids, who — in their great joy — managed to show exactly how one savors summer. With a spoon.

Now it’s back to work, but back to work after a weekend of good memories. My 2-year-old was even rattling them off in awe: “We went to the beach, and we picked strawberries…” It was tiring at times, but a good use of hours.

What memories are you savoring most from this weekend?

Photo courtesy flickr user


13 thoughts on “Savoring summer

  1. Picking strawberries with your cranky 8 month old reminds me of picking strawberries with my 6 month old cranky twins. I pick at a Mennonite farm and was surrounded by Mennonite ladies while I (in pants and a T-shirt) attempted to pick strawberries while nursing one twin and then the other. (You cannot simultaneously pick strawberries, squat and breastfeed twins. In case you wondered)

    1. @Twin Mom- I think I had this idea in my head that babies naturally calmed down in fields or something. Years ago, I went bicycling through rural Vietnam. Lots of the village women had their children strapped to them as they worked in the fields. My kid would be in trouble if we lived a more agrarian life, apparently.

  2. My big kids were all gone, so it was just me, 2 year old and hubby. It was lovely! I slept in, hubs made breakfast. I went thrifting alone, went out for a nice big brunch, took two walks, napped… a good day!

  3. Loved your post, brought back so many memories with our (then little) girl, now grown up. It was a glorious weekend in northern California-mild, breezy and blessedly cool! We decided against the local fair but slept in, walked in the park, watched old movies and lived a less frantic life for 3 heavenly days! I took time doing chores and spent reflective time journaling about some important time issues. Delightful!

    1. @Linda- sounds nice! One of the things I like about blogging is the opportunity for reflective time it builds into my life. I keep a real journal, too, but I’ve noticed since I’ve started blogging regularly that I’m less diligent about writing in it. I guess one can only take too much reflection!

  4. I’m laughing at this – “patriotic bulk shopping”. 😉

    We had a very low key weekend, the first in ages, to be honest. We skipped our parent-child Spanish class and made a spontaneous plan to meet friends for dinner, which rarely happens. My parents had our daughter over to visit for one afternoon which means hubby and I had some time to ourselves. Life is good 😀

    1. @ARC- the bulk shopping at Costco is totally our retail therapy. We spend ridiculous amounts of cash there, and always think we’re getting a bargain. But I have no idea where the food all goes. I suppose we eat most of it! This week was about buying lots of summer pajamas. Very, very cute.

    1. @Cara- I think it just makes me happy to be outdoors. Baby was up by 6 and the other kids not too long after. Winter mornings I’d be tearing my hair out with them. Summer mornings, we had a breakfast picnic on the deck and then just played outside. Much more pleasant.

  5. Even though we had family visiting, I made sure to plan some fun — but low-key — activities into the weekend. That meant two short visits to the neighborhood pool with my boys, an hour on the front porch reading a good book and sipping a glass of wine, and having friends over for a casual cookout. And yes, the hubby hit Costco too! 🙂

  6. Inspiring post. I often blink and the summer has past. My husband doesn’t like too much planning but if we don’t plan, we end up staying home. Trying to find the balance this year with a mix of “anchoring” fun activities and free time. I really want to enjoy summer, hopefully with a minimum of toddler/baby meltdowns!

    1. @Oilandgarlic – my husband likewise isn’t big into planning. But if we don’t plan, we lose the time to TV, puttering, etc. And with kids, you have to plan if you want to go out to dinner or something just because you have to coordinate babysitters.

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