August is winding down. I have mixed feelings about this month: Does it belong in summer or fall? No one seems sure. Here in Michigan, most schools don’t start until after Labor Day, so everyone is still enjoying vacations and pre-bedtime ice cream cones. In Florida, most schools are already back in session. Without school-aged kids who actually need to abide one of these schedules, I can’t decide which camp to fall in. Though I feel ready for a new season, I can’t get there quite yet. I want to claim all the summer I can, to hold the warmth and humidity of August tight in my grasp and declare, “Summer!” It also seems that late August must be the rainy reason in Grand Rapids, and my Floridian heart and mind still holds thunderstorms solidly in summer territory.
Emily Freeman hosted her “What We Learned This Summer” link-up a few weeks ago, but I’m a slow-processor, and I wasn’t ready to begin thinking about what summer had offered until I could say she was over. I think we each have certain events, days, and traditions that are what truly trigger the flipping of the calendar. For me, this year, it’s these: The Olympics have ended, Evan and Ian’s August birthdays have both passed, and college football starts next week.
I’m ready now. So, with no further ado, here’s what I learned this summer.
1. You can trick flies into thinking they see a spider web. I really wish I did NOT have to figure this out, but alas, just like last summer, our yard seems to attract flies! Gross. And annoying. Apparently, there are all sorts of ways you can trick flies into thinking they’ve seen a spider web and, therefore, staying away. You can hang CDs (remember those?) or Ziploc bags full of water from a tree. You can also fill a mason jar with some water and pennies, and leave it sitting upside down on a table or porch railing. So, tuck that bit of helpful info away for next summer. You’re welcome.
2. It’s hard to talk to toddlers about the realities of life, but even when you try, they may choose to remain ignorant. And in this case, ignorance truly is bliss. We found ourselves stranded in the house for a week in July, while we waited for the brakes on our car to be repaired. Desperate to find something for Ian to do one afternoon, I turned to my trusty sidekick–Netflix–and we watched the live-action version of Charlotte’s Web. (Did anyone else love the old, animated version of that as a kid?) Now, Ian thinks that a “smokehouse” is any house with a chimney. I TRIED to be honest with him about the reality of pigs being turned into ham and bacon (and truly, the kid loves bacon), but he didn’t totally understand. “No, Mama,” he laughed, “People don’t eat pigs!” And I decided that for now, it’s just fine if he blissfully believes that to be ridiculous.
3. Parenting requires untold levels of vulnerability. As we rounded the bend toward three years old, we also entered our hardest season of parenting so far. (Everyone talks about the terrible twos, but apparently it’s the threes that required warning labels.) I’m learning that in parenting, you don’t always see immediate results; you have to keep being consistent despite what feels like failure. At the end of many, many days lately, it feels like we are failing as parents. Enter vulnerability. Brené Brown says that vulnerability is “the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome.” Never have I felt more vulnerable than in my parenting, where the outcomes are so far from guaranteed that it practically sends me to the cardiac unit.
4. It’s really good for me to have projects I’m working on. This past week, my friend Rebekah and I launched The Drafting Desk: a monthly email newsletter for those of us trying to pursue freedom instead of perfectionism. We’ve been working on this for months, and the idea lived in my head for many more months before that. Along the way, working on the project was so life-giving for me! I recently told someone that I don’t like to have goals, specifically, because it becomes easy to feel like I’m failing at something. But I LOVE working on projects. I’m now wondering what other areas of life I should begin looking at as a project, rather than a to-do or a should-do. (Answer: parenting.)
5. Our bodies adapt to climate change pretty dang quickly. We don’t have air conditioning in our house. (In fact, while we were looking for a place, not a single rental we saw had air conditioning!) As lifelong Floridians, this seems crazy to us, but welcome to Michigan, I guess! At any rate, last summer, we hardly thought about the A/C. A summer in the mid-80s was glorious. This summer? Well, let’s just say that our bodies apparently adjusted to our new climate pretty quickly, and we were a bit sad to not have the A/C this time around. Window units to the rescue!
6. I love the Olympics because they are a reflection of the kingdom of God. I wrote more about this here. Truly, I just loved the Olympics this year. (Though, like practically everyone has said, I found NBC’s coverage a little underwhelming.) At the same time, I will admit that it feels nice to have my evenings back!
7. I’m a bit relieved to know we all have moments like this.
8. Anticipation can be a spiritual discipline. Recently, I told my friend Melissa that because the daily routines of being a stay-at-home mom can be a little mundane and definitely repetitive, it helps me to have things to look forward to. Whether it’s an event on the calendar or just an afternoon glass of iced coffee, I find there’s a little more pep in my step when I’m looking ahead with joyful anticipation. When I look at Scripture, I see messages like “joy comes with the morning” and “prepare the way” and fixing our eyes on the “joy set before us.” Sounds like anticipation to me! I’m also learning to look at spiritual disciplines not as items to be crossed off my to-do list every day, but as perspectives to take on; as ways of looking at the world; and as means of interacting with myself, God, and others.
So, there we have it. That’s what I learned this summer. I always love making these lists. Just like anticipation helps me feel eager for the next season, reflecting like this helps me be at peace with the season that just passed. It’s a simple way to say, “Last season, though full of its own challenges, was full and meaningful and well worth it.”
I set a jar of sunflowers in the middle of my kitchen table, and last night before bed I added two decorative little pumpkins. I’m adding the ingredients for my favorite chili to my shopping list, and I’m putting an apple-picking day on the calendar. But the best thing of all is that a dear friend actually mailed me a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils, and if that doesn’t signal the beginning of fall, I don’t know what does!