A salute and a hug to those not sad about summer's end

It's funny how knowledge and acceptance can be so at odds. I'm certain that were I to go back through this blog's archives, unearthing and rereading posts from the two-three weeks prior to the start of each school year, I'd find evidence of a vast malaise, not remotely unlike the one I'm feeling now. 

I know and expect this end-of-summer state of blue but never do I grow closer to feeling any sort of peace with it. 

There are the voices from my family, waxing rhapsodic about blissful summers. There are the voices of friends who truly love weeks on end of downtime with their children. There are the perky voices in parenting blogs and magazines and glossy social media feeds giving thanks for one last weekend of togetherness.

I do not find myself in any of those voices. I find myself deep in struggle and overwhelm. I feel flat and dull and a touch pissed. I'm not sure I'll ever find acceptance in that.

I am grateful for the collegiate whispers of parents who feel as enervated as I do but I continue to wish that on occasion those whispers were roars.

I continue to wish modern parenting might tilt backward a bit (or very much?) to a more hands-off time. I continue to wish I could right my own wrongs in any dynamics I inadvertently established when my kids were small. Out of the most intense love I sat and played and adored and tended and did and did and did. Who and what wouldn't get used to such attention and devotion? If only I'd remembered to give myself some of that, for clawing it back is much harder than keeping it from the get-go.

I know there are those nodding their heads with kindly smiles and thinking "oh, but the years are short." I am aware that the years are short. (And yes, I am equally aware that my boys went to sleepaway camp this summer. Camp and the fatigue from more than a decade of parenting don't cancel each other, friends.) 

But also, and with equal validity, the days and weeks can feel long. They are long. They are mind-numbing and thankless not infrequently, and pretty much all the time, the ledger draws down not from the children but from their primary caregivers. Even the most willing and wanting of us are not infinitely refilling vessels. At least not most of us. Not me. And my kids aren't quiet lumps. I'm exceedingly thankful for that, but parenting them is neither easy nor relaxing. Ever.

I could not stop crying this morning, and I feel zero sadness that tomorrow is, mercifully, the last day of another summer. I don't know what we'll eat tomorrow (every person in my family has asked me that) nor what we'll do (every member has asked me that too). I wish I could read quietly without interruption and exercise and simply feel my body seek to find some sort of stasis. I doubt any of that will come to pass. And I don't feel too much in the way of acceptance about that. 

If you're whispering along with me, nodding your tired head in understanding, I send you a salute and a hug. 

Other DC-area gems: Phillips Collection, Water Mine, in their rooms with Legos

Y'all, I am really starting to feel like an A+ champion mother. That said, I went to bed at 7:20pm last night-yes, you read that correctly-and slept until 7:15 this morning. So, champion takes a little something out of a mom, and I cannot wait to be off-duty for a few when school resumes next Tuesday. 


I do not want to be so champion.

Ok, so other fine things we've done this week include The Phillips Collection, a little jewel box of a modern art museum on 21st Street NW. General admission is free with a suggested donation of any amount you choose. Special exhibits incur an entrance charge.

The Phillips was once the home of Duncan and Marjorie Phillips and much of the works within are in what was their collection. The woodworks and staircases are really spectacular and add a lovely dimension to your experience of the art.

Which is fabulous. Other than lack of Dada works (in which Oliver delights), Ol and I think The Phillips is equally as good as MoMA and definitely more enjoyable. There are four Rothkos, two Mondrians, and a slew of works by Kandinksy, Miro, Renoir and Picasso among others. 

There's also a lovely cafe, bookshop and an extensive library.

Field trips also meant a trek to Reston, VA, for an afternoon at The Water Mine, a water park with a delightful lazy river, water slides, and general water-based fun. Admission is roughly $15/person, but you can bring your own food, it's a generously-sized park, and it's clean and lots of fun.

Ladies, wear a one-piece suit if you plan to enjoy the slides; they're fast and the endings will pull bikini tops plum off. They are SO much fun.

If you want to eat there, it's your general snack truck situation: pizza, ice cream, nachos, pretzels, soda. Not cheap but for kids, I guess it's part of the fun.

Today, it rained. Amen. We waited on a delivery, picked up the pottery we painted last week, and then did Lego Day, the culmination of six weeks of daily, quality reading and some journaling by both kids. I contributed a certain amount to each boy, and they were responsible for any overage. Both seem thrilled with their decisions, and their work on their sets meant some down time for me. WOOT!

Tomorrow is Jack's middle school orientation. My big boy is starting 5th grade! And Ol is heading to 2nd. I'm excited for them- they'll miss being on the same campus, but some space will be good for both. 

An increasingly tired Mama, the U.S. Botanic Garden

Here we are again. The final week of summer break. The public schools have resumed-some weeks ago- or will tomorrow, and we are limping towards yet another opportunity for vacation and family time: Labor Day. Which is, if you think about it, an exceedingly accurate moniker for what many parents will continue to do over this long weekend: labor.

I, myself, have had approximately no minutes away from my children except for last, glorious Friday, and honestly feel that I could use a few. Or one million. 

I am tired. Pooped. Behind. And not remotely interested in any further discussions of Minecraft, butts, penises, or who prompted the pinching and who deserved the punch. Ya both did and ya probably both do, you hear me you summer-strangled heathens?

On the heels of Sunday's delightful time with Cirque du Soleil, we spent most of Monday at the U.S. Botanic Garden which is roughly kitty-corner to the Capitol. We found easy parking on Pennsylvania Avenue, walked through the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial which is, thankfully, fully wrapped under renovation cloths (it needs work!), and over to the Botanic Garden's entrance on Maryland Ave, SW.

the Root sculpture in front of the Botanic Garden. See the Capitol peeking out in the background?

the Root sculpture in front of the Botanic Garden. See the Capitol peeking out in the background?

I'd read about the USBG's Junior Botanist program and figured the boys would love it. They did, and for good reason. 

I exchanged my drivers license for a Jr. Botanist backpack filled with all manner of exploration supplies-magnifying glass, ruler, bottles of scents, a spray bottle, fossils-and a packet of thoughtfully designed adventure pamphlets. We grabbed pencils and headed in.

Each pamphlet corresponded to a room in the Garden, and each took twenty or thirty minutes to complete as the kids had to read, explore, draw, sniff, guess, record, and so forth. There were also interactive journals for both inside and outside gardens and rooms. 

We spent nearly five hours, including a brief, delicious lunch break at the American Indian Museum (truly, it was delicious; I had tamales, Jack had buffalo chili, and Ol a bison burger) down the street, completing the program at which point I remembered to get my license back and the boys received the Junior Botanist badges they'd earned.

the American Indian Museum

the American Indian Museum

If they now complete their Botany At Home packet, they can mail in their completed work to receive both a certificate AND an invitation to the USBG's greenhouses which are not open to the public but for a day each year. 

*Clockwise from top left: a Pitcher plant, the Wollemi Pine (first discovered in 1978), two different types of orchid, a golden barrel cactus, and a beautiful plant whose name I haven't the foggiest.

This fun, super-educational, engaging program is FREE as is most everything via the Smithsonian, and I enthusiastically recommend participating.

*Full disclosure: I will say that it may be wise to NOT do both the Jr. Botanist work AND the journals on the same day. By the time we left, Oliver was crying, Jack was sweating and pissy, and I was frantic, had blisters, and my eyes were spinning.

That said, it's a really beautiful place, the staff is amazingly nice and informed, and the programming is terrific. Both kids want to return pronto.