Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Finding my Summer Center (or not)

We're one-third of the way through our summer and it's been great, mostly.  The twins, at almost 12, are doing a 7-week STEM day camp at a local university.  They loved it at first, but as the daily homework continues to pile up and the number of other activities they've had to miss increase, they are starting to understand the realities of opportunity cost.  Three weeks more to go.

Our daily routine would be going great, if we didn't have so many interruptions to it.  We've rarely had even five days in a row where there isn't some big activity, camp, trip, or event to throw us off a bit.  It's challenging.  I recently read a blog post from a mother of seven giving tips for managing life with a big family.  Some were very good and she had a great way of expressing herself.  One point she made was this:  "You will encounter dozens of mom systems (chore charts, reward systems, schedules) that seem like The Answer. Please remember every system requires a system manager. The system only works because the manager is managing. No system works on its own."  Amen.  We have great systems that work at our house, but mainly they work because I do the work to keep them flowing.  During the school year, with so many months of regular routine, it's much easier.  After a few weeks, the kids know what is expected and I'm used to knowing when I need to do what and who I need to remind when.

During the summer?  Not so easy.  With so many kids going so many different ways, I find myself feeling anxious about holding it all together.  I'm also missing my quieter hours that I so value. I adore having all my kids around me and being able to spend so much fun time with each of them, but there's a bit of people fatigue involved for me.

Just keeping track of the scheduling is challenging.  Lillian and Joey both have jobs, and Joey's schedule changes from day to day and week to week.  Michael volunteers at two different places -- the library as well as at a bike collective, fixing up bikes for underprivileged kids.  The twins are driven back and forth every day.  And then in June alone, we've had:

  • Rockhounding
  • Swimming at the local pool & Swimming at the water park several times each
  • One Family Weekend Trip
  • One Mommy and Five Youngest Trip
  • One Daddy, Lillian, and Four Youngest Girls Trip (Lillian to a conference in California while DH played with the younger kids)
  • House guests
  • Scouting High Adventure for Joey and Michael
  • Girls State for Lillian
  • A Half Marathon for DH and myself
  • Several fun events, such as a photo contest (I won $100) at a local festival, a craft day at a museum, and the like. 
  • Orthodontist appointments, 
  • Girls Camp for Lillian, Allison and Sarah
  • BBQs
  • And more 

It's been a ton of fun, and I can't help feeling that if we do nothing but stay home and veg the rest of the summer, we've filled June so full there won't be a single complaint.
Allison's favorite geodes from the Dugway geode beds

These were so much fun to break open and discover the treasure within!

My husband totally skunked me in the race, coming in fourth in his age group!  I survived the race, which was all I was hoping to do after not being able to train as hard as I wanted to. 
Fishing at Pass Lake, on the Mirror Lake Highway

Upper Provo Falls

I got to spend several days alone in Park City with these five crazies.

Fun painting project

My project while DH was gone with five of the kids on a daddy trip was planning and putting together these shelves.  I love seeing all our toys organized!

It occurs to me that summertime, for me, might be like what most people picture having ten kids must be like all the time:  so many kids coming and going, so many events and just so much work to keep it all running.  It's crazy.  With so little consistency about who is home at any given time, I've taken on a lot more of the housework -- cleaning the kitchen several times a day, meal prep, most of the laundry, picking up -- and the messes are bigger and the house deteriorates faster.  This morning, our play room and family room got picked up and clean.  This afternoon, it took five kids and myself working for ten minutes just to find the floor again.

I find myself wishing for things to slow down, at least long enough for me to get the garage cleaned out and the kids' rooms deep-cleaned.  But July looks as busy as June and August is more of the same.  So I've had to try to readjust my thinking.  I've felt off-balance and a little too stressed.  I went for a walk with a good friend the other night and was able to get much needed perspective.  She shared that recently, she was walking through her beautiful backyard and just looking at all the weeds everywhere.  As she began to feel frustrated at all the work represented in her backyard, she felt a calming thought that said, "there will always be weeds."

I think I've been doing a bit too much scurrying around and thinking I have to fix every problem and organize every section of my house in addition to caring for the kids and managing all of our activities.  I've had a tough time finding a good balance and feeling centered.  After enjoying a well-run household during the school year that gave me more free time than I've had in a while, it's been unsettling to once again feel that I am just not getting enough done.  I've written before that I think the hardest part of having a large family is just making peace with good enough.

A friend recently shared this blog post and it's given me a lot to think about:
"It occurred to me that Mother Teresa must have had more demands on her time than she could ever even come close to addressing — and considering the type of work she did, serving the poorest of the poor all over the world, she must have often felt daunted by how many important things needed to be done compared to how little she could do.
So I asked Fr. Langford: What did Mother Teresa do when it seemed that there was more work than she could possibly handle?
His response was simple and wise, and it marked a turning point in my life. In his reply to my email, he wrote: "The [work she could not get to] she did not think twice about, nor should you or I, since God is not asking you to do what He does not give you the time (or health, or resources) to do. So be at peace.'"

I will probably continue to feel this way, but I will also try to stress a little less and enjoy a little more, to let the weeds grow a little more in some areas while I'm tending to the more important ones. And just about when I think I've hit my groove with summer, school will start again and I'll get to start a new normal, hopefully with more of that quiet time I crave and a little more peace and order.

In the meantime, there's a lot to love about summer, weeds and all.

Summer means hummingbirds outside our kitchen window and homegrown bouquets of flowers

Silly girls and fun crafts

Picnics at the park

Fun memories

Shucking corn

Enjoying cousins

Adoring this cute 11-month-old, who took his first steps this past week!

Summer is a time for weeds, for sure, sometimes more than we (I?) can ever get on top of.  But it's also when beautiful buds blossom and burst forth in all their splendid color and fragrance (oh, that honeysuckle by my front door!).

1 comment:

A Saunders said...

Thank you i needed this reminder today as i muse my ability to manage my 10 and not be failing at every turn- which I'm not but the tidal mess of more sure is overwhelming at times. Good reminders a quote to frame from mother teresa!


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