For the wider world this summer has been traumatic. Multiple terrorist attacks here in America and abroad, police shootings, police shot, a grim and disheartening presidential campaign, flooding in West Virginia. The tragedies seemed to come so fast it was hard to keep up with them all. It seems callous to claim it was a good summer, when for so many this has been the very worst summer of their lives. But for our little corner of the world, the summer was peaceful, uneventful, and memorable in a good way. I'm grateful for that.
When we were kids summer seemed to last three years instead of three months. Now it feels more like a month and change after you finally finish the interminable end of year "check out" tasks and before you're called back in on the 1st of August to start gearing up for the new school year.
This summer felt a little longer than usual--perhaps because we did so many different things--and I've identified three distinct parts of the 2016 summer season:
Summer at Home
Our school year ended for the first time before Memorial Day. As a result even though it took longer than the allotted post week for Babs and I to finish our end-of-year tasks, I still felt like we had some significant time at home this summer. The weeks of early summer seemed to go by quickly at the time, though they feel longer now looking back. This was the first summer since we moved to Ohio that both Babs and I were "home" for the summer. In the early years, Barbara worked through the summer at the Stepping Stones preschool, while I was home with Elijah during the summer. I was also working on my masters degree. When I finished my masters degree, and Barbara shifted to being at home with our boys, I began working at Kroger during the summers to shore up our income. Finally, this year, with both of us working full-time as teachers we were both "free" for the summer. You can imagine the let-down when I realized that there would be no real vacation with two energetic boys in the house.
So, much of the early summer was focused on keeping the boys occupied. I was not as successful as I would have liked in keeping their screen time to a minimum. It was oh so tempting to let them blow the day watching hours of cartoons on Netflix so I could get things done. But I tried not to give in to that too often. We might go to the park if it wasn't too hot or to the pool if it wasn't too cool. I took them grocery shopping (which always resulting in me spending way too much money, especially when I put Elijah in charge of planning the morning and afternoon snacks) or on other errands. The day would go by so quickly. Any kind of running of errands would shoot the morning. Afternoons would be quiet time, followed by a swim at the pool and then baths, supper and the day was winding up already!
One of our goals for this summer was to de-clutter our house. We've been inspired by Marie Kondo's best-seller, the The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It was a gargantuan task, even in our little apartment, but we made some real progress. And at least so far Kondo's philosophy holds true. Once you've decluttered an area it tends to stay that way. The key seems to be to get rid of a lot of stuff, rather than just organizing it more neatly. In our house, a lot of clutter comes from having things we don't know what to do with. By being more intentional and only holding on to things that we actually use and/or that "spark joy", tidying up becomes a snap. Particularly remarkable is the boys room which has always been a disaster area of random pieces of plastic, orphaned puzzle pieces, and cheap toys. Now that the room is de-cluttered, I can clean up even the biggest messes in their room in 5 or 10 minutes because I (and they) know where everything goes.
So that we could get some actual work done and be kid-free for a bit, Barbara and I designated one day for each of us as an "away "day. This was ostensibly a work day to focus on long-term planning and big picture strategy for the next school year. I also hoped to use the time to start working on a book about my experiences as a student missionary in Chuuk. I didn't do near as much work as I would have liked. I did spend a lot of time toiling over an as-yet-unpublished blog on guns--my way of trying to understand the early summer tragedy in Orlando. I spent hours researching, changing my position in the light of new data, researching some more. There will be a finished post forthcoming from those efforts.
On a morning walk early int the summer we came across a water main leak near our house. Playing in the mud and splashing puddles = simple, classic summer fun. It's funny how these simple activities are what I remember most warmly. Walking down to the leasing office to pick up a package, going down to the pool for a 20 minute swim before supper. It didn't need to be a big event to be memorable.
|During one of our visits to Gogah's house I worked on cleaning the gutters. Not the most pleasant work, but very rewarding when I was done. Thought it is vacation, summer wouldn't be complete without some outdoor, manual labor.|
Summer with Friends
Late June and early July was some really great friendship time. We went out to Chicago and had a wonderful time with the Carlos family. On these visits, I would be happy to spend the whole time sitting on their couch shooting the breeze with J, and eating Evelyn's epic meals. But Barbara likes to get out and do, and this time I was game. Having just had an amazing trip to Chicago with my students there were some places and experiences I was eager to share with my family. Our first day, we spent mostly hanging out at the Carlos home, but our second day we had a truly glorious time in downtown Chicago, visiting Maggie Daley Park, exploring Millenium Park, and then meeting up with my old friend from college Kim Juhl and her sons for supper at Lou Malnati's.
|Our boys and one of J and Evelyn's boys on one of the giant slides at Maggie Daley Park in downtown Chicago, Thursday, June 23, 2016.|
|The splash fountains at Maggie Daley hit the spot after working up a sweat on the playground.|
|The oldest Maycock and Carlos boys. Hopefully they'll be friends for life just like their dads!|
|One of the massive slides at Maggie Daley Park.|
|"Two grown men in a huddle of kids" J and I's friendship, going all the way back to freshman year of high school always reminds me of the Rich Mullins song "What Susan Said." When we were young men, student missionaries in Chuuk, I used to listen to the song and imagine the day when the second verse that describes the two friends as adults would come true. Well now, we are in that second verse. We're grown up now with kids of our own, "trying to help them to believe." You can listen to the song here.|
|The Chicago skyline as seen from Maggie Daley Park|
|Crown Fountain at Millenium Park|
|The boys waiting for the face to "spit" at Crown Fountain|
Back in Columbus we had a classic summer day by the pool with our new friends Jason and Veronica Francis and their kids. On 4th of July weekend, we enjoyed Sabbath lunch with Ephraim and Bettina Laidley, and the Bailey family followed by a lovely hike in woods near Slate Run Historical Farm. The 4th of July the Francis family and the Ralph and Wayna Gray joined us for an evening of pie-making and haystacks and watching the fireworks.
|Sabbath, July 2, 2016 at Slate Run Historical Farm. Elijah and one of his long-time pals. She'll be moving to New Jersey with her family at the end of the summer.|
|I always have the most fascinating conversations with Ephraim Laidley. One of the smartest, most interesting people I know.|
|The Baileys. We are going to miss this family so much!|
|The Francis and Maycock kids having fun during the New Albany fireworks display, which we were able to watch from the parking lot of our apartment complex. Monday, July 4, 2016|
Summer with Family
The last third of our summer was devoted to family. It was truly precious time. We left Ohio on Thursday, July 7, spent the night in Greenville, South Carolina at Jenny's house before continuing on to Florida the next day. We planned to leave Florida, about two weeks later on Thursday, July 21, but as the time to leave approached, we decided to stay an extra day and leave on Friday. Then the day before we were supposed to leave, we decided to stay an additional two days and leave on Sunday, July 24. We ended up spending 17 days in Florida, including three weekends, and it was perfect.
The first week in Florida, Barbara was working on a class and was gone for most of each day. I enjoyed hanging out with my sister and my mom, while the cousins played. We cooked up some delicious international favorites, Korean food one night, Indian food another night. We went swimming, went to the library, watched movies together. I took Dawn out for lunch at an Indian restaurant (she had never been to Indian restaurant and I felt that needed to be fixed!), I enjoyed talking about science with Vince, watched a superhero flick with brother-in-law, Jim, and went shopping with Mom. One of my favorite memories, is all of us sitting on the patio for sundown worship on our last Sabbath evening in Florida. That feeling of family warmth and togetherness could never be captured in a photograph but is vivid in my minds eye.
It was in Florida that I finally fully relaxed. I took several unplanned naps the last few days I was there, a sure sign that I had finally reached a point where my schedule was light and unhurried enough that I felt I could indulge in a little shut-eye without guilt or regret.
|The older cousins|
|The younger cousins|
|Clowning around at Friday evening worship|
|Ezra got a hold of my phone during our last Friday evening meal with my family and took this pretty good photo. Not bad for a three year old|
Despite our extended time, it was hard to leave and I still feel a little melancholy. I miss them.
Wednesday night, July 27, we drove home to Columbus, and our wonderful summer came to an end. Even though I don't report to work until tomorrow, and Barbara isn't due back until August 8, it feels like the summer has officially ended.
I imagine that when we get to heaven, it will be like a summer that never ends. I can't wait for that day.