Summertime Reading

If you’ve known me very long at all, you know I love reading. I’m a sucker for a good book. Fiction, non-fiction. It doesn’t matter. Just books. I’ll bring stacks of them home from the library. And my goodreads account has a pretty full “to-read” shelf.

Rick and I both read quite a bit. One of our favorite mantras is “readers are leaders.” Our poor kids. {wink}

But, honestly, it is something we’ve worked to pass on to our kids. We knew media would try to steal their minds away so we started to read to them when they were too tiny to understand us. And, we just never stopped. Especially in the summers. Summer just lends itself to the imagination, doesn’t it?!?!

Join me today over at The Better Mom where I offer some of our tips for summer reading success.

 

Grace and peace,

Shannon McKee

June Means Summer

For us, summer is right around the corner. My kids started counting down the days a week or so ago. Well, truth be told, my son probably started counting down the days a few months ago. {wink} We’re in the home stretch now with only three days left!

I am excited about summer. Yes, in part, because of the great weather and the extra time outside. And there’s the locally grown produce available at our Farmer’s Market. Oh, and, the ice cream frozen yogurt we’ll be inhaling at our friends’ new shop nearby. And summer reading programs at our favorite library. And bonfires in the backyard. And sitting with Rick on the patio after the kids have gone to bed. And the Stow parade with our church family on the Fourth of July. And days at the lake with my sister’s family. And letterboxing treasure hunts. And fresh cherries nature’s candy. And painted toenails. Oh summer!

But the best thing about summer is just being with my kids more of the day. That, and capturing back all of the time that gets lost in the shuffle of packing lunches and running kids to the school and checking folders, etc.

Sure, we’ll still have stuff to do. I want to be purposeful with our time. But, I want to say “yes” a little bit more this summer. And, worry a little bit less about things that will pass. To really look at my kiddos and savor the moments as I’m in them.

I am more mindful than ever before of how quickly these years are slipping by.

When they were preschoolers you never could have convinced me that one day it would move so fast. Back when I could barely slip away to go to the bathroom without them needing something from me. Those days felt long. (Not that I didn’t love them.  I did. But, I’ll be honest, they just felt long at times.)

This summer they’ll be 13 and 10. These years are flying by. So bring on summer. Let’s hold our iced coffees high and toast to more time with people that we love.

Recounting Summer’s Gold

Summer. Blink and it’s nearly gone. Whew. I can’t believe the kids will be back at school in one week.

It might not have included all the things I had originally planned but it was a good summer. A really good summer.

Here are few highlights from the McKee family. I’ve been taking a photo every day (well, almost everyday) since January 1 so we have some great snapshots of the day-to-day to remind me of all the wonder.

* Dusk. Chasing fireflies. Sitting around the bonfire in our backyard.

 

* Listening to the bagpipes on the bridge on Memorial Day.

* First scones of the season at the Haymaker Farmer’s Market on a Saturday morning.

* Iced chai. And frozen chocolate-covered bananas.

* Discovering a new letterbox under a tucked away “troll bridge.”

* Backyard fun with friends. The smell of the grill. Laughter as kids play on a trampoline. Sharing Mamo’s potato salad.

* Weddings! Tears. Always tears for me as those doors open and I watch precious friends come down the aisle to the ones who have promised to love them for a lifetime.

* Vacation in Virginia Beach. Reuniting with dear ones who were there the day we got engaged 20 years ago! Skinny Dip yogurt. Just Rick & me – watching dolphins at sunrise. Sand between toes. Boardwalk art show. A surrey bike ride and Madison ringing the bell.

* Fourth of July parade – as only Christ Community Chapel-Stow can do it. How can just walking a couple miles in the heat of the day be so much fun? Maybe because I truly love these people.

* Faith in Christ. From your 12-year-old son.

* Boys with Nerf guns. Girls giggling into the wee hours with their American Girl dolls.

* Meetings cousins at the lake. Bowling with friends on rainy days.

* Library runs. Discovering new books. Waiting for The Help to come to theaters! Read-aloud time each evening.

* Snuggles and slower mornings. PJs until Noon.

* Girlfriend-runs to Trader Joes. And watching Charleton Heston while we eat Sno-Caps.

* Visit from the Indy McKees. Meeting “Chewey.” Laughing together in the pool.

* Slowing down. Breathing. Musing.

Sigh.

So, can I just break the weeks-long blog silence? By telling you all that my summer planning never really came to any fruition at all? I mean, like AT ALL.

Pretty much none of the things that I planned ever happened. I don’t really know what happened to summer. We didn’t read the books I had hoped we would read or do some of the fun projects that I had thought we would do or practice math or visit Grandma in Cinci or discover a new letterbox weekly. We didn’t even get to the lake all that often.

I am still sort of shocked that it’s August. Let alone MID-August.  Yikes. It’s hard for me not to just label the whole thing one big, dismal FAILURE. And the perfectionist in me is scared to death of THAT. And the putterer in me is a little bit afraid that maybe I have some real issues to think through in who I want to be and how I spend my time.

It’s true. I really am wrestling with some things about myself. But, don’t be sad for me. It’s not a bad thing. Wrestling can be a really healthy thing. I think I’ll wait and share more about that process at a later date.

But, I just wanted to let you know that I’m still here. This blog is still one of my favorite places to be. (In fact, my sweet, newish friend, Hannah, is about to give it a facelift!! I am super excited. But, I digress. More on that later, too.)

I think I was just sort of embarrassed to admit that my summer planning was a flop this year.

And that I yelled at the kids a lot more than I wanted to. Especially when they bickered or were ungrateful. I’m sure I read in one of Dobson’s books that screaming at your kids because they’re screaming at each other is the best way to parent. You remember that book, too. Right? *wink*

And I allowed myself to get stressed-out way more than I think is right. All of you dear friends who really know me, know that I am not a good multi-tasker. For real. I know, I know. Women are supposed to be these global-type thinkers who can have lots of things going at one time and multi-task with ease. Not me. At all. Instead, I putter around looking at all the tasks and then get stressed-out because I’m out of time to do them. Ask my kids. They know this better than anyone.

So, that’s my sob story. I knew I couldn’t just pick up writing again without admitting it to you. Summer simply didn’t turn out the way I had planned.

But, you know, I am reminding myself that it really wasn’t a failure. Some really neat things happened this summer. I’ll tell you a few highlights tomorrow. Because I want to cultivate gratitude. I want to be mindful of the beauty.

God makes beautiful things – even when I do a so-so job of cultivating space for them to grow.

Sure Signs of Summer

http://i276.photobucket.com/albums/kk10/TheCorgiCrusader/fireflies-1.jpgDusk was settling across our sun-drenched yard. And she danced. Tiptoeing around them. Humming a little hum as she watched for them. Searching the evening sky.

And they came. Flitting around the yard. Like magic. The kind of magic that makes time stand still. In that moment she wasn’t our figuring-out-life nine-year-old. For that instant she had not a care in the world as she chased them, anticipating their next glow. 

She was joining the June chorus that has been echoing through the ages. The song of the fireflies.

And I knew summer had come in earnest.

Mapping Summer

This week brought the official start of summer. The kids have already been out for two weeks. But Tuesday made it official!

The kids and I finally made some headway with our summer planning. It’s been fun to dream a bit about how we want to fill our blank slate!

This is a process that is best done together – so that the kids own the summer too. This doesn’t mean that you abdicate and let them call the shots. We start with a few parameters that I have set. As the parents, Rick and I get to craft our overall goals for the summer. The kids simply don’t have the perspective or maturity to see the big picture yet. From their perspective, having fun would always trump everything else. You and I both know there are other worthy goals for the summer months – things they might not even like very much. {wink}

These goals are not details or specifics. They are the big picture stuff. For instance, one of our goals is making sure we keep using our brains all summer. Just because they’re not in school, doesn’t mean they stop growing intellectually. Notice, my goal doesn’t say howwe’re going to accomplish that growth. The how comes later.

When I’m thinking through our summer goals, I try to think through some of the various aspects of life: relational, physical, intellectual, and spiritual. Some goals might overlap various areas. For instance, another summer goal for us is to get outside into nature several times a week. If we choose to go on a scavenger hunt in a metro park with friends, that could be physical, relational, and intellectual.

(Confession: not all of my goals are so lofty. I have one goal just to get more “slugbugs” than my son. He always sees them first. Stinker.)

Once we’ve decided on our goals, we move to making lists.

  • Fun lists. A summer soundtrack. Things we don’t want to miss this summer. Fairs or festivals to attend. Friends we hope to hang out with. Treats to make or try. Outdoor adventures to pursue.
  • Growth lists. Books to read. Journal topics for writing. Ways to help the kids practice math. Spiritual growth ideas. Challenges to undertake.
  • Chore lists. For me AND the kids. (Lest you think Rick gets off with no chores, don’t be fooled. I affectionately refer to Rick as Ultra Type-A Man so he doesn’t need our help with lists. He gets plenty done. Believe me, he has his own list. In fact, I’m pretty sure his list has a list.)

Then, after we finish our lists we start putting some things in the calendar. You’d be amazed at how fast the summer fills up. We have 10 weeks left.

The purpose of all this planning is simply to help us do the things we really want to do. Not to bog us down or tie us to our calendar. But, to help us really seize the things we want to and not just get stuck in a rut.

What about you? Have you made any progress with a summer plan?

The danger, of course, is to get so caught up in the planning that you miss summer. Wouldn’t that be a horrible irony?!?!  The other pitfall could be putting too much pressure on your goals. There are no perfect parents out there. What if the kids don’t actually read as much as you had hoped? I mean, truth be told, almost nothing has gone the way that I planned this summer. It’s just my reality so far this year. (I have a theory that as soon as you decide to write about something, it never actually works out that way. But, I digress…)

And, please, no comparing your family to other families. Yeesh. That will just kill your summer.

But, then again, input from other people can be helpful – as long as you’re not trying to live up to some crazy self-imposed standard. Here are a few resources that I have found helpful. Really there are tons out there. Especially now with the so many excellent mom blogs out there. Don’t get sucked into spending too much time here. But, have fun poking around…

Do you have any you would add to the list? What resources do you use to help you plan for summer?

Summer Un-plans?

Unexpected deadlines, vacation bible school practices, first week of summer extras, vacation preparations. Isn’t that just life?!? The very week I anticipate planning and even writing about planning, my plans become…well, pretty much they become “unplans.”

 
It all started off so beautifully. On Monday, I finished a project for work in the early hours. Then we loaded up and went to the library where we got signed-up for summer reading. A quick stop for slushies and then on to letterboxing, where we discovered a perfectly wonderful park in Stow that we had driven by a million times and never noticed. The results were in… and, summer break was off to a great start!

By Wednesday, I was a stressed-out mess because the house was in chaos, a new project at work needed my attention, I still hadn’t gotten the kids to the lake, and I had just realized that I had forgotten to drop off Rick’s suit at the dry cleaners. (The suit was a just a minor issue. It’s not like he was officiating a wedding for a dear a friend on Friday. No, of course not.) Sigh.

Feeling like a failure as I watched week one of 12 slip away, I definitely needed to regroup.

How? I needed to remind myself of a few things…
 

First, life isn’t about perfect days. When the laundry piles high and the sunscreen is expired and I forget an important task until the last minute… my inward attitude is just as important even more essential than getting actual work done. Let’s face it. Perfect days come few and far between. Most days are just normal days – a mix of moments that are both good and bad. My attitude in the midst of all those moments is what can make or break the summer. And, since Mom tends to be the tone-setter for the rest of the household, my outlook has a pretty big impact on everybody else’s summer too.

 

Second, I need to get to back having a plan. Not a strict second-by-second itinerary. After all, it is summer! But I still need a way to make sure I’m juggling work, family fun, personal growth (for the kids too), and household jobs. Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean everything else is on hold! I mean, I can have a really great attitude about it all but it just would not be best for the pastor to show up in his boxers on wedding day. {smile}

Third, lists and the calendar are my friends. I need them for summer success. So, this weekend the planning began in earnest. I started with some questions and worked toward specifics. But, more on that tomorrow. There are some good tools to help with your summer success and I’d love to share them with you.

Oh, and by the way, Rick’s suit was ready in time. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I picked it back up on Friday. A really big sigh. Huge, in fact.

How about you? How was your first week of summer?

Summer: Will You Survive or Thrive?

Well, it’s finally here. After a very long winter and a nearly sunless spring, summer has officially come to my little town. How do I know this? Maybe because the farmer’s market started back up a few weeks ago? Or because the students are gone, making the line at Starbucks way shorter and the streets much quieter? Or because I finally painted my toenails? Well, those things are all true.
But the way I really know it is summer is because my kids are home again! All day, every day. (That, and my freezer is full of flavored sugar water Flavor Ice again.)

For most moms, having the kids home for summer surfaces all kinds of different emotions. Relief that we don’t have to pack another lunch until August! Delight that we get to be with our little people more often. Excitement and anticipation for all the “summer things” that we do as a family: slower mornings, bonfires at dusk, days at the lake, letterboxing adventures, cousin sleepovers, walks to Katie’s Korner for homemade ice cream, grilling out with friends, and the list goes on. Your list might be different than mine but I’m sure you have one… and I’m guessing it involves some combination of sunshine, being outside, and time together.

But, let’s be honest. Summer also feels a little overwhelming. It’s a blank slate. Twelve weeks of freedom. How will we seize those 12 weeks? How will we find that right mix of structured planning and laidback playing? Finding that balance will probably take some intentional thought from Mom. It certainly won’t just “happen.” Nothing good ever does.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to just survive the summer. I want us to thrive this summer.  It’s the only one I’ve got when my kids will be 12 and 9. The last summer before the man-child enters middle school. I want to seize every moment with them. Even the unplanned ones where all four of us dance around the living room, laughing until we can’t stand up. 

But, how? How to make sure the summer doesn’t just slip by in the blink of an eye? That’s the question I’ll be pondering this week. Won’t you join me? Could we map out summer together? Because I’m betting you have some good thoughts too.

Next up: Having a Plan!

Savoring Summer…

Summer has begun in earnest at the McKee home.

Plenty of time…

 For fun in the sun…

For sweet treats…

For intimate moments…

and for cultivating the deep places…

Summer is a time to be savored.

Not just because we have more time by the pool… but for many of us with kids in school, it is a rare time to have the kids at home all day, everyday. I want to really savor the moments with them and make investments into their growing character. I want to enjoy the simplicity and the freedom that summer brings. I want to get us outside for picnics and hikes and farmer’s markets and flower finding.

Please join me over the next few days as I consider and plan to savor summer. I’ll give you peek into some of our favorite, long-standing summer activities and some new things that we’re going to try as well.

And what about you… what are you anitcipating most as you step into summer?

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