Best. Summer. Ever.

Summer was awesome.  Writing?  Not so much.

Summer was awesome. Writing? Not so much.

Hello friends!  After a long hiatus, it feels good to be exactly here where you see this photo.  Back to thinking about you, me and the suburbs.

I don’t know if it’s the ages of our kids, the weather or some other cosmic transpiring, but so many of my fellow suburbanites have been saying it.  Maybe you, too.  “I didn’t want summer to end!”  This is the first time in my memory that I have actually been clutching on to summer with both hands, not willing to let it go.  Hence, the lack of posts.  I gobbled up as much time as possible with those curious little humans I call my children.  We camped, we hiked, we swam.  We rode on ships, kayaks, canoes and airplanes.  We celebrated their two birthdays.  We spent time, we wasted time and we killed time.  As I was fortunate to have to work very little this summer, I was able to do these things… I want to be with them while they still like me.  And while they can’t drive.

Also, as my kids and my friends’ kids get older, they are less dependent on us to make fun for them.  They do things to occupy themselves and there is not as much hands on care as there used to be.  For the entire summer, we just hung out.  I don’t remember yelling once nor a single utterance of “I’m bored.”  Bliss, I tell you!  For some of the other families I know with younger kids, I have heard those famous words, “school can’t come soon enough.”  But for the most part, it appears that summer was really magical.  And fleeting.

So…thought I’d share some things I notice around suburbia that signal fall is coming.  Like it or not.

  • that subtle browning of the leaves of tomato plants.
  • darkness at the end of soccer practice.
  • orange-spread over the face of growing pumpkins in the garden.
  • the thrill of pencils and binders and crisp loose leaf paper.
  • the crinkle of leaves under your step.
  • a gradual decline in the whoosh-whoosh sound of your neighbor’s sprinklers.
  • your neighborhood store has undergone a Halloween metamorphesis.
  • you reach for a sweater, or a hoodie with more regularity.
  • apples and pears ripen in the trees.
  • mums, kale and sunflowers are the showpieces at your local nursery.
  • life begins to feel more ordered and predictable.
  • warm and comfy shades of red, brown and orange make a reappearance.
  • you start thinking obsessively about boots you want (okay maybe that’s just me).

For those of you who have read my “September is the New January” post, you know I love to make a fresh start this time of year.  It’s the absolute perfect time to get your shit together.  Really.  What changes do you want to make?  For me, that pile of photographs needs to be sorted and placed into scrapbooks.  And most important to me right now is getting family dinners back on track.  Nothing wraps up the day better than sitting down to a home cooked meal where everyone gathers to share and reflect.  Oh, and also I would like to quit being hard on myself, do 5 pull-ups in a row, write in my journal,  and be more organized.  The end.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have a middle schooler this year.  All those Halloween displays with ghosts and goblins and zombies don’t hold a candle to the fear invoked while watching your child disappear behind the doors of your local middle school.  Now that is fucking scary.  It’s a rite of passage, you tell yourself when you see your child make an ill-advised clothing choice.  They have to make their own mistakes, you tell yourself when they forget their ID card and beg you to go home and get it.  We had a great summer, I say to myself when I start thinking that I somehow haven’t prepared her properly for this transition.  In the end, I know she’s a great kid and I know she’ll be fine.  Will she avoid be embarrassed, socially awkward or teased?  Probably not, altogether.  But I remind myself, this is not your experience, this belongs to her.  And I decide to enjoy it.  And go eat an apple.

Goodbye, summer.  Thank you.

Goodbye, summer. Thank you.

What signs remind you that fall is coming?

What are you going to do to get your shit together?

Thanks again to Barbara Paulsen at Mt. Hood Mama.  She gave me tons of gorgeous vacation photos, but this one is my favorite.  

I am not FUN.

I’m thinking about things that are fun.

This is not something I am proud of or like to admit.  It is not the first thing I tell someone when I meet them or what my name badge says underneath my name.  It is my dirty little secret.  It is this:  I am not fun.  At least, not the commonly accepted notion of fun.

You see, my husband is really fun.  This is what drew me to him, part of the reason I love him and lots of the reason my kids love him.  I remember when I first met him and he had a group of about 6 (really awesome) girls who were his close friends. When we would do things together, they would always tell me how lucky I was to have him because he was SO FUN.  Sometimes he would tease me and tell me I am a “grandma” because I like to:  go to bed early, think deeply, read, go home rather than stay out late and refrain from bodily injury or needlessly embarrassing myself.   Well, I am aware that  America does not idolize people like me, and that being a badass in this culture is considered pretty fucking cool.  I have never been the girl who swung from chandeliers, dropped out of helicopters, recorded a narcissistic video for the admissions committee or rallied the troops for an all-nighter.  Yeah, no.  But I used to wish that I was more like that.  There are even websites dedicated to teaching you how to be more fun.  How sad for all those kids (and grown-ups even) out there who are constantly pushed to be someone they are not.

I adore my friends who are fun.  They love to party, stay out late, host huge soirees, do adventure races and create elaborate competitions and festivals.  I have so much fun hanging out with them and being with them because they are FUN.  My 8 year old daughter is FUN.  She loves fun, dreams about fun, thinks about fun and engages in FUN.  Her every day is in pursuit of FUN.  When my husband is away, my eleven year old tells me, “Things are fine when dad is away, just not as fun.”

Very coincidentally, Gretchen Rubin wrote about this today on her blog for the Huffington Post.  She states emphatically  that just because something is fun for other people does not mean it is fun for you.  She cites examples of things that are fun for other people but are simply not fun for her such as cooking, drinking wine, shopping and skiing.  And that she finds it really hard sometimes to be “just Gretchen” and be true to the things that she really enjoys doing.  Some examples of things that others find fun but I don’t:

Sledding:  I love sledding when it’s just my family but when there are other kids around I worry about things like head injuries and lawsuits.

Drinking until ridiculously drunk:  Never something you look back on as a highlight of your life, it’s usually when you do something really stupid.

Kid games:  Being dyslexic,  learning new games is painfully difficult for me.  Those page-long instructions are torture.  But I love charades, Apples to Apples, I Spy and other simple games.

Team Building Exercises or Competitive Team Building Exercises:  People get crazy and ruthless and all Mad Max and shit.  Really?

Video games:  Don’t really get it.  Especially if they are violent and bloody: yikes.

After reading Susan Cain’s book, “Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,”  I realized that it is perfectly okay to be the way I am after spending a lot of time wishing I were more fun.  That I could somehow force myself to be the life of the party.  That I could be the “fun” parent.  But you know what?  It’s okay.  My kids are lucky to have parents who are different and provide alternate ways to be in the world.  My husband has a confidante who thinks deeply about all kinds of issues.  And my wonderful friends, of all stripes, I get to enjoy and bask in their uniqueness.  Things I find fun and recharging, (which Susan Cain calls “sweet spots”)  include reading a great book, spending time with people I love over a glass of wine, shared laughs with small groups of friends, watching my kids play with abandon, going for a run with my dog, a bike ride with my husband, writing a good story, snowshoeing in silent whiteness, the irreverence and joy of people who are not like me and happy hour with my husband.

I know, crazy-wild shit like that.

You know what?  I am changing the title of this post to “I am Fun.”  My own kind of fun.  Fun is not universal:  We don’t all like the same foods or movies or whatever.  Why should we all think the same things are fun?

What’s fun for you?

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Being true to myself in the ‘burbs.

“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” – Benjamin Franklin

Photos courtesy of Barbara Paulsen of Mt. Hood MaMa Iphoneography.  Her photos are incredibly fun.