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Summer arrived here in a rather loud fashion last month, bringing the raw energy that comes with the end-of-the school year, daily trips to the pool for swim practice, and the usual first few weeks of anxious adjustment to new rhythms.  After years of pushing through the difficult transitions that accompany my boy and his autism, you’d think I would be used to this reality, but I still find myself feeling blind-sided each year. That said, we all survived those first few weeks of discord and even managed to create a few fond memories along the way!

Emmainsprinkler

My girl  would live in the water all summer long if she could.  And it seemed like we ALL lived at the pool for the first 6-weeks during swim team season!  I often call Emma “My Little Mermaid.”  When I ask her what she likes  best about swimming, she declares that she “loves the way it feels to glide through the water!”  I have to say, Emma really does look beautiful gliding through that water and I admire the perseverance that she demonstrates in trying to become a better swimmer.

Emmaonblock
On any given Monday night, my husband or I could be found poolside, fulfilling our volunteer duties with a timer in our hands.

Stutiming
And, Ben did his best to  be patient  and entertain himself with lots of snacks and good fact books.  He was an especially good sport when rain drenched his bag of books at the end of the very last swim meet.  Especially the notebook of President facts that he compiled over the past several months…

Benatswimmeet
I usually try to plan a few craft projects for us to work-on together throughout each summer. The clay was actually Emma’s idea.  My block of clay had become dry after sitting for too long, unused, so after wrapping it in a moist towel for a day or so, I was happy to see Ben and Emma enjoy making a few things with it, even if their projects ended-up cracking and landed in the trash later.

Clay
I plucked this stick-weaving idea off of Pinterest earlier this summer.  Ben and Emma were really into collecting “v-shaped” sticks on our nature walk the morning I told them about this project.  I had planned on the project taking place over a few days, but they could not wait to get started…

Emmaweaving
I love Ben’s focus here!

Benweavin g
Ben and Emma insisted on carrying this humongous branch back with us that morning…Now, over a month later, it looks like I am the only one interested in finishing the weaving.  A new piece of art for their tree fort!

Bigweaving
Amidst the swimming and crafting, Ben participated in a Friendship Skills group.  His final homework assignment was to arrange and carry-out a play date (with a little help on my end).  By the huge grin on his face, I think you can tell it was a success!  My heart fills with joy when I see Ben enjoying the company of his peers…For so long, he only felt safe talking and playing with teenagers and adults.

Ben&Peyton
Lina and Emma have remained best friends since their first days of preschool.  This summer marked the first-time that Lina spent the night at our house.  These girls are quite the entrepreneurs!  They love to make stands to sell just about anything.  Tap water.  Junk from Emma’s drawers.  And this time around, lemonade.

emmandlinalemonade
Thanks to our good-spirited neighbors and few passersby, the girls made-out pretty well!

emmaandlinalemonade2
Not one to sit idle, Emma also delights in entertaining us with her many shows.  Awkward gymnastics routines.  Silly-nonsense plays with Ben.    Here, she is holding a puppet show featuring an “Emma” puppet and theater (decorated as a swimming pool, of course) that she made in summer art camp.

Emma'spuppetshow
And, Ben entertained us with his “Worm Circus!”

Benworm
For obvious reasons, my art production slows-down quite a bit during the summer.  I did  make it downtown recently, though, to see a few of my earlier creations displayed at the Suntrust gallery in Richmond.

bathtubsuntrust
handsuntrust
This week, I started on a new piece called “Ben’s Dream.”  I am loving using the collage and paint combination to create the background!  You can expect to see the beginning of this process in a future post, after my family and I return from our annual pilgrimage to the Outer Banks next week.  May we all continue to notice and savor the special memories unique to our summers.

 

 

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It is the first week of summer and I watch my boy perched on the edge of the pool during his swimming lesson.  The instructor has him hold his hands in front of his mouth so that he can feel the air as he breathes-out.  When she brings my boy to me after the lesson today, the instructor notes the importance of focusing on breathing techniques.  The reason my boy is afraid to go underwater is that he doesn’t know how to breathe-out when he puts his face in the water.  While he has come a long ways from the trembling 4-year old clutching our necks with white knuckles each and every time we entered the water together, now, at 8 years old, he struggles to conquer this last step, again.

My boy is perfectly content to paddle around holding onto his lime green noodle, head sticking-out of the water like a turtle; however, we know that he needs to become a proficient swimmer for his own safety.  Each year,  he takes to the water with a little more ease and excitement.  And each year, come time for swimming lessons, my boy faces his fears and learns to put his face in the water all over again.

I admire my boy’s perseverance.  It seems that I, too, have to learn how to “breathe” again each summer.  I have to learn how to breathe amidst the loud all day talking, the drama of being “bored” and the unbridled energy filling the air.  I suppose we all have to learn how to breathe again.  To find a new rhythm in living and breathing together during these hot summer months.

Admittedly, I have floundered through these first days of summer.  A fish out of water.  Trying to strike a balance between planned activities and down-time that fits the needs of both my boy and girl, at least most of the time.  And, as I struggle to breathe again, I find myself returning to the lessons I have been learning over the past several years.  I pay attention to the rhythm of the knife chopping lettuce for a simple salad.  I notice the colors in the soap bubbles as I wash the pots and pans.  When my boy and girl read after lunch, I open my copy of In Celebration of Simplicity and remember the joy of slowing-down and living lightly.  And, in doing these things, I find myself learning to breathe all over again.

I remember hearing women talk of “nesting” in the weeks and days right before their children were to be born.  Madly cleaning and organizing the house from top to bottom.  While I reveled in this nesting process pretty much from the moment I found out I was pregnant, I think I’ve always been a nester at heart, with or without expecting a child.  I simply love organizing and arranging my environment in a way that works for me and my family.  Aesthetically, spiritually, and functionally.  And, when I encounter transitions and change, my nesting instincts tend to kick-in at a frenzied pace.

Take last week, for instance.  Just two weeks before my boy and girl will be home from school for the summer months.  I felt an urgent need to install those extra towel bars in our bathrooms (I’ve only had them sitting in the corner of our bedroom for, well, almost a year!), clean-out the guest room closet, donate 5 bags of “stuff” to the Goodwill, take a bulging bag of books to the used bookstore, rearrange the art supplies in the dining room, purchase shelves for the garage, organize the crates of outdoor toys and supplies scattered across the garage floor and  stock-up on supplies for summer projects.  I was driven.

I am quite aware of this pattern of mine. A woman on a mission to check-off the remnants of her to-do list, squeezing-out every minute of “me-time” before the last day of school.  Perhaps this is my way of trying to feel in control.  Or, perhaps, I am clearing the way for summer, both physically and emotionally?  I expect each of these hypothesis hold some truth.

Whatever the reasons may be, this week, I am trying my best to slow-down before summer “officially” starts. At our house, summers laced with autism and ADHD can be tiresome.  This is just a reality for our family.  At the same time, when I am able to put my agenda aside and simply “be” with my children, I create more room for joy and less stress.  Joy in climbing trees.  Splashing in the waves and in the neighborhood pool.  Reading books.  Playing games.  Creating art.  Riding Bikes.  Joy in spending time together.

Will I lose my patience when my brain cannot take-in one more moment of compulsive talking?  Probably.  I expect that some days will look pretty messy.  At the end of the summer, though, if I can recount more days of joy than despair, I  consider myself a blessed woman.

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