Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thursday Thirteen Summer 2012

I sit writing this on Monday night. Kids are in bed, backpacks are full of supplies, clothes are laid out, and two young boys are anticipating what 3rd and 5th grade will be like beginning tomorrow morning.

I have had a child in school of some sort for 7 years now (starting with Noah in preschool in 2006) and I think the first days are actually getting more difficult, rather than easier. Each new school year means one more year closer to the time when I am no longer an important part of their lives. And each year I cry as I send them off.

I had wanted this to be the "best summer ever" but due to financial constraints, I was unable to make it happen...AGAIN.

Although Noah spent much of the time this summer explaining just how awful his summer was, when we sat down this weekend and talked about what we DID do, he was the first one to say, "We really have fun this summer". I'm not sure if he was just trying to be nice or being honest, but it was still nice to hear.

So this summer was quite a bit different than summers in the past.  There were quite a few things that used to be part of our summers that really don't factor in anymore, mostly because the boys are just older now. We didn't spend every other day at a new park like in past years. As a matter of fact, I think we only actually WENT to a park maybe a half dozen times the entire summer. I think one factor of that was because it was just really really hot this summer. 

We also spent fewer days at the beach this summer. We didn't even go to the tiny local beach a single time. We did get to Lake Michigan a handful of times this summer, but gas costs reduced our trips.  We also made it a new Lake Michigan beach (well, new to them, not to me) and it was our favorite beach day, despite the icky biting flies. We'll go back there next summer but earlier in the summer.  We also did not go to a couple of festivals that we have ALWAYS gone to in summers past, such as the Coast Guard Festival and Byron Days Festival. We also didn't spend a single night in a hotel this summer, which has always been a favorite of the boys in summers past.

Okay, so enough with the negativity. What DID we do this summer?

Well, after asking the boys what they will remember from this summer, and adding the things that I will remember the most, here is how the Summer of 2012 will be remembered:

13. DUNK TANK...Aaron's Dream Come True
I will never be able to explain why my youngest child has such an incredible OBSESSION with dunk tanks. I have no idea when it started or where it stems from, but it is real and it is here to stay. So when I found out that there was a fund raiser where kids got to be in a dunk tank, I would have paid an extraordinary amount of money for him to have the experience. Even better, it only cost a dollar and he spent an entire afternoon climbing into a very gross grass filled tank and getting dunked. His dream come true. Did it quash the obsession? Nope!

12. Birthday Parties...Noah's Dream Come True
Given a summer AND holiday birthday, a birthday party with school friends has never happened and he has always wanted one. So this summer was the year, in honor of entering Double Digits, we let Noah have a birthday party at a local game type place and also had a blast at a birthday party with all of his cousins at a local park. Definitely a memorable birthday for him. Even better, he got to spend fireworks with his gal pal as well, which he also talked about the rest of the summer.

11. Gymboree Summer/ McFlurries
One of the most obvious things of this summer was how much time the kids spent at work with me. As I was teaching 2-3 days a week, the boys spent a LOT of time in the little tiny office of our owner, with a minuscule DVD player and their handheld games in the dark. Real fun, right? Here's the funny thing...I figured it would be the WORST part of the summer. But not one single day did they complain about it the entire summer. To them, it meant a day of sitting watching TV and playing video games without mom regulating them. And even better, every Friday, since it was the longest day they had to be there (5-6 hours) we stopped for McFlurries on the way home. They thought it was the coolest thing ever. Who says you can't entertain children on a shoestring budget? :)

10. Camping, Cabin Style
Perhaps the best job I've ever done at planning ahead. Back in January when I got an email saying that you had to reserve (and pay for) summer camping sites for cabins at the campground we like in February. After some discussion, we took the small amount of money we got for tax refund and went ahead and scheduled our camping weekend. In hindsight, the best thing we've ever done since we would never have been able to do it otherwise. So even though we never took a "vacation" per say, we did get our weekend away and didn't have to "rough it" as much as in previous years since we rented a cabin at the campground. There were definitely ups and downs to our camping adventure this year, but it was a memorable weekend away as a family. Not sure if we'll do it again next year but we had an experience that hopefully the boys will remember fondly in years to come.

9. My Grandma
My grandma passed away in July, just four days shy of her 96th birthday. She was an extremely important part of my life and I am tearing up so this will be the most difficult paragraph to write. I wrote an entire tribute to  this woman on the private blog that I kept this summer so I won't elaborate here. In short, I was so grateful that I had some warning and was able to take the boys to Kalamazoo a few weeks before she passed so we had a short time with her to visit and say goodbye.  A couple weeks after her passing was a small gathering at the cemetery as her ashes were buried, followed by another gathering of family and friends the next day. The kids remember the weekend as time playing with their favorite cousins. I, however, had a very difficult weekend on so many levels and I am still hurting and very raw. So even though it's not a happy memory, it was a very huge part of my memories of the summer of 2012 and it needed to be part of this list.

8. The Grandmas, Grandpas, and Rebellion
My boys have the best grandma and grandpa ever in my parents. They will be the first to tell you that if you ask :) When asked, their first response is their favorite parts of the summer were the days they spent with the grandparents and cousins, playing in the forest, swimming at their aunt's pool and just being loved and doted upon. Every kid should be lucky enough to have these special people in their lives!

The flip side of this was the assertion of Noah's independence as he outright REFUSED to go for two overnights to my in-laws. It was a very difficult and awkward situation but we backed up Noah's decision and Aaron went to spend a couple of days alone with the in laws while Noah stayed home for some one-on-one time with us. Both boys had a fun time apart from each other. My MIL keeps asking about if Noah will come next summer. I know the answer but I will certainly not face that until it comes next summer. Anything can happen between now and then.

7. Reading, Writing, 'Rithmatic
Aaron is younger than everyone in his class by quite a lot, so with some encouragement from Aaron's teacher, it was very important to keep Aaron up to speed and even help him improve in some ways. So I did require the boys to keep up with reading , writing essays, and math worksheets this summer, including reading aloud to me.We also followed through on several local reading clubs, including the library one that treated us to a free trip to the local minor league baseball game. The game included a free kids meal and safety goggles night and was a lot of fun, even when it got rained out in the fifth inning and we went running for cover, soaked to the bone. I think (or at least hope) the work we did this summer paid off and I do feel like he is more prepared for third grade than he would have been otherwise. 

6. Michigan's Adventure
We had decided that there was no way we were going to be able to make our annual trip to the only amusement park here in Michigan. But after much discussion and a very honest and sad plea from our firstborn, we squeezed some blood from lemons and made it happen. Aaron got to go on his first corkscrew. The biggest part of this day however was Noah's experience. He was determined to ride the one ride I had denied him in previous years...despite me saying that I still didn't think he was ready yet. 

Sometimes it stinks to be right and this was one of those times. The poor kid got jolted and jostled around, scratching up the entire side of his temples, and then losing his glasses completely, never to be found again. He came away crying and wishing we had never come in the first place.

We salvaged the day for the most part, but after quite a few other icky mishaps, Michigan's Adventure will probably not be our summer destination again for a very long time. 

5. Day trip to Lansing
This was probably the best family day of the summer. We took one Sunday and headed to the state's capital. It was a great day and one of the very few activities I actually posted about this summer.

4. Summer Bowling
 A national website, Kids Bowl Free, sponsored 2 free games of bowling every day for kids all summer long. We have signed up for three summers in a row, but this was the first summer we really took advantage.  Our local bowling alley, in additional to participating in this promotion, also offered dollar shoes, dollar games, and dollar pop days on Mondays so with both the free bowling coupons and the specials, the boys and I went bowling almost every Monday all summer long for only $8 a day. Pretty good frugal planning if I do say so myself. Noah achieved his high score of 115 and Aaron's of 98. These of course were with bumpers but by the end of the summer, they were trying to do one game without bumpers and one with each time we went. Noah is even asking to be part of a bowling league this fall. We'll have to see about that.

3. Chili Dogs and Slurpee's
Perhaps again because of the extreme heat this summer, Slurpee's became a treat often this summer. For $1 I could get a 44 oz Slurpee, divide it between two cups and make two young lads super happy after a hot day playing outside. Not exactly nutritious but still fun for them to go make crazy concoctions. In addition, Noah was determined to try his first chili dog. He loved it and asked for them almost daily for the rest of the summer. And they were really yummy!

2. The Swing
Boys grow up and the day came when we realized that the small swing set we had for the little boys doesn't really cut it anymore when little boys become big boys. So after a sad farewell to the swing set (selling it to the people across the street) we needed an additional outlet for our active boys, besides the trampoline we had gotten them earlier in the year. I had actually begged Hubby to hang a swing from our tree out front for  several years and after quite a bit of nagging begging requesting, he obliged. The kids spent hours on the swing for the entire summer. Given the construction, it is amazing that there were as few injuries from it as there were, even though the most serious of them happened just a few days ago, with a head gash to Noah. But he recuperated and was back on it the next day as if nothing had happened. And yes, there are bets going around  the neighborhood about how long the limb will actually hold before falling. Hopefully it won't happen while one of them is airborne.
1. Weekends together
Another thing that was different this summer was Daddy being home. He did work a few Saturdays in order to try to beef up his paycheck since things were really really horrible this summer, but at least he had the CHOICE for the first time, which meant many more weekend sleeping in together than ever before. Another nice change was that our church holds Sunday morning service "encores" on Monday nights during the summer for all the many Michiganders who are out on the water on the weekends. We attended many of  those Monday night services instead of Sunday morning and I liked the change. It made the week shorter as well :)

So, I guess we did make the best of our summer. The one biggest thing I learned this summer was that I don't ever ever ever want to have another summer where I feel like a complete loser as a mom again. The only way to change this is for me to make money....REAL MONEY. So for that reason, the decision was made this summer for me to head back to school come January.  I feel that this decision came directly as a result of truly feeling the poor factor this summer and I had to stoop lower than ever before to even try to keep food on my children's plates.  I hope the struggle this summer will pay off and after I am done with classes in a couple of years, then my summer post will have a very different feel to it. I don't necessarily want to be able to say yes to everything the kids ask for, but I never want another summer when the answer is always no.

I am so lucky to have had yet another summer with the boys, despite the circumstances. I have limited time left when the boys want anything to do with their mom so I will take each day as it comes and work to be grateful for each and every moment.

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