Summer 2016, An Intelligent Design

Shannon and Christina hit the beach with their trophies full of sangria! (Image source)

Summer is coming, friends, and with it weeks and weeks of unstructured time with our children. Blessing? Curse? Only hindsight upon summer's conclusion can tell. The only certainty now is that summer quickly approaches, and there is nothing we can do to stall or thwart it. Gird your loins, for it is well nigh upon us!

I can't tell if I'm afraid or just being funny, but this is the song I get in my head when I think about school's being out in a week. Just laugh along with me. Ha. Ha ha. Ha. Hmmmmm.

We're gonna need a bigger calendar.

Actually, I'm quite looking forward to the summer, for the most part. And that's because I have a plan! Taking a suggestion from Gretchen Rubin's podcast on designing her summer, I have also designed mine. I love it when a plan comes together, if only because it grants me the small comfort of imagining that I have any control over how well our months of family time will go this summer. I harbor no illusions that this design won't go sideways at points, but the beauty of a plan is that you always have a clear way to re-start what has stalled. It isn't an inviolably rigid structure, but rather a flexible scaffold around which to build a summer. There is wiggle room, and there is purpose, both of which make the coming months feel more manageable.

Here are the four cornerstones of our summer design, the supports of my scaffold:


For the Smartlings, reading means the huge stack of books I just bought from the year's last Scholastic book order, weekly trips to the library to supplement what we have at home, and designated daily reading time. It also means me reading out loud to them as often as they demand. It's summer, the one time a year when I can drop everything for an impromptu story time! It'd be a shame not to do it, when it's all of our favorite thing.

For me, summer reading means binge reading as often as I can. It's a throwback to my lonely only child latchkey summers, for sure, but it's a pleasurable one. I love sneaking away to devour a chapter or two in a warm breeze, or staying up late with the lasting light to finish up final pages. I love my summer tradition of gulping text, and I hope to pass it along to the Smartlings.

This is why, for us, reading will mean reading together. I need to let the 'lings catch me reading, something I generally don't do since their waking time is my working time. I realized recently that my kids know me as a procurer of books, but not a reader. They hardly ever see me reading. This summer will change that. It's my goal to have some time each day where we all just settle down and read together, and I'm going to start packing a physical, paper book with me when we go adventuring rather than reading words on my phone while they play. I want our reading to be something we share all together, as well as together alone.*


For the Smartlings, this means regular writing time as well as regular reading time. Smartling-the-elder will have no problem with this, as she is a major producer of original writing in this household. For Smartling-the-younger, this means practicing letter recognition and writing simple words. I also want to put more of her outstanding stories and songs down on paper. She is gifted in the oral and musical tradition of storytelling, and I want to work harder at preserving her wonderfully insane narratives while also encouraging her to think of herself as a writer through such preservation.

For me, this means keeping up with my regular Smarty Mommies posts, as well as experimenting with new forms and subjects on my own. When the kids are in morning camp would be a great time to dive in and see what happens in strange, uncharted writing territory.

And, for us, I want to write together with the girls and also let them see me writing. Like when I read on my phone, when I retreat to our office to clack away at a computer, they really don't have an idea of what I'm doing. This kind of writing is not relatable to them. But if I sit down with a notebook and pen, they can understand that process and the fact that Mommy is a writer. I'm lucky that every day can be Take My Daughters to Work Day, and I should take advantage of that fact. This summer is the perfect time to do so.


If I learned anything from our family trip to New York, it's that the Smartlings, now almost 4 and almost 7, can hang through a day of adventuring. We are untethered by naptime or potty training! We are free from the shackles of early toddlerhood! And, people, I'm ready to go exploring!

This means that my Smartner and I have designated several weekends to doing fun things with the Smartlings around our area, most of which I've never done. We are being tourists in our own city and neighboring cities with our girls in tow. Storm game? Check! Go see the horses race at Emerald Downs? Check! Go wear out our swimsuits on the water slides at Great Wolf Lodge? Check! All this, plus daily afternoon explorations of local parks, splash pads, beaches, hiking trails, and as many different libraries as possible**, and we'll be well-versed on all of Western Washington's kid-friendly awesomeness by September. We'll be travelers without the hassles of travel! Staycationers of the highest caliber! I can't wait to find fun local things to do with my kiddos in our off time.

Now THAT'S our idea of summertime fun! No, seriously. It really is. Stop laughing. (Image Source)


I love the mellow, satisfied feeling of well-worn well-being at the end of a big summertime day. The salty, sandy glow of a day spent at the beach, or when you finally scrub dirt-darkened feet after hours in sandals at the park - I love the end of a hard day of play when rest feels both welcome and earned. I want this for our summer, and it is my goal to joyfully wear ourselves out as many days as possible this coming months.

I'm a person who generally needs a lot of exercise to not be a huge bitch - er, rather - to find mindfulness and ease in interpersonal relations. Considering my gym and running excursions during the Smartlings' morning camp hours, our outdoor adventures, and our touristy wanderings, I plan on being a right pleasant summertime companion to all who encounter my well-exerted self. And the Smartlings? Well, between their morning camp and our afternoon exploits, to paraphrase Ivan Drago, I will break them. I want us to end most days tired, sweaty, and grateful for some stillness.***

I get all of my most solid parenting advice from the Rocky franchise.

And this is the plan for Summer 2016! Am I overplanning it? YES! Will I find that the loftiness of my goals and rigidity of my aims crack under the chaos of actually executing these plans with 2 real, live Smartlings? ABSOLUTELY! Will it give shape to an otherwise frighteningly amorphous mass of time? BOY HOWDY WILL IT EVER!

Gird your loins, Smarties! Summer is a-comin'! WE RIDE!

*Said the only child. "Together alone" is my absolute favorite way to be.

**This is our elder Smartling's idea - to tour different libraries in our area, including the Suzzallo Reading Room on the University of Washington campus because we read an article about the most beautiful libraries in the country, and it was on the list. She is my beautiful, tender, sensitive, literate nerdling, and I love her.

***Not like now, at this very post-bedtime minute when I hear them loudly inventing complicated narratives involving the stuffies they're supposed to be sleeping with. Dammit.