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Monday, August 25, 2008

Parents: The End of Summer Squeeze Play

For the last couple of years, we “staycation” in August as we are reticent to leave the South Sound during the summer GLORY DAYS when our town is shiny, warm, and easy-breezy. The husband takes a couple of weeks off and we pack it full with fishing, crabbing, sports, day trips, family parties, time with friends, barbeques, farmer’s markets, eating out, eating in, and just being outside. And we sprinkle in my daughter’s birthday party. Sounds fab, right?

You parents of young ‘uns know better. Yeah, it’s good times, but it’s tiring times, too. Making memories can be hard and unforgiving “work.” And with the gentle whisper of heading back to school becoming a loud scream, the time left takes on an even more frantic and “packin’ all in” pace. I personally raised the bar of “outpacing myself” this year during the stretch of August 16th through August 20th, during our humidity and late summer heat wave, mind you.

The precursor was August 13th. I was due at Jo Emery Ballet School for ballet dance class that warm summer night. The outside air was perfect, the kids were actually occupied, hubby was home, the wine was crisp and cool and I couldn’t go. Hubby and I were talking. Without INTERRUPTION! I just wanted to plant my behind on a lawn chair and just BE. But I felt guilty not going. I felt like, “God, I’ll miss out; what if I can’t go next week?” You know, there I sat anyway, and blissfully just chilled out. It was worth it.

Ah, the calm before the thunderstorm.

August 16th was my daughter’s 7th birthday and the party plans were in motion, carefully planned, and timed beautifully. Yeah, right.

Things started to break. A sprinkler head on our sprinkler system was spraying everywhere it shouldn’t, the clothes dryer wouldn’t work (with several loads of smoldering, sweaty clothes in queue plus a wet, molding load to boot), and a bathroom door wouldn’t shut properly. Leaving my poor husband to deal with these issues, I decide to take a quick shower before getting down to Fred Meyer to pick up my daughter’s cake and a multitude of last minute items I forgot to get (hello, BEVERAGES for the guests, Kim!). I decided to “speed shave” my legs. Brilliant! Two nicked up and stinging shins later, I pop out of the shower and bend over to wrap a towel around my wet hair. I discover that the right side of my nose is profusely dripping blood. I have cut it somehow, some way, and I can’t get it to calm down. I check the clock and I am twenty minutes behind schedule. I try to find a tiny, discreet bandage. No luck. So, I head to the store with wet hair and a large, Hello Kitty Bandaid plastered across my nose. Awesome.

For the party itself, I was makeup-less, sunscreen-less, and utterly exhausted thirty minutes before the guests arrive. The sad part, that this was a simple, low key party. Seriously!

Well, at least my nose stopped bleeding and the Bandaid was history and I sported a scab on my face.

But we parents, children’s party hosts, seem to acquire superhuman strength with a smile and just get through it anyway no matter the circumstances. Yet we do crack at some point. I remember many parents at the party (who also had small kids), volunteer rapid fire to help serve cake. Perhaps it was that glazed, autopilot look I had on my face that did the trick.

After the party, the house was a complete explosion of birthday party trash, mounds of stinky laundry, and soiled carpets and it was over 90 degrees. I melted into heap drinking beer and ordering things off the internet, my hands still cramped from wrestling the birthday toys out of the horrendous packaging. I looked forward to a nice sleep. No way. Thunderstorms and humidity disrupted my sleep so much so, that I ended up listening to infomercials on AM radio in the wee hours as I couldn’t settle into my book or anything really cerebral. If you want to know about “Purity” vitamin supplements, just ask me.

By the time I woke up, I was ready to call the 800 number to order the vitamins. We headed out for a planned and weary family breakfast and then to an anniversary party in Woodinville at a golf course. The party was fun, but sweaty and cold blooded native Pacific Northwesterners like me, who find over 75 degrees “oppressive,” tend to fair poorly. But here is the true party triumph: My nine year old slipped off with cousins and was found wading up to his chest in the water feature on the golf course trying to find lost high end golf balls he could sell on Ebay. I was too tired to feel freaked out when the entire serving staff and a golf marshal had a little “talk” (complete with good natured giggles and guffaws, mind you) with me. So, we got home late, with a smelly, wet child and a totally exhausted and grumpy child and the junk and dirty dishes were then in triplicate.

Monday, the 18th, my husband groggily returned to work and the kids and I stayed in pj’s until 11:00 AM. I weakly attempted to clean. We ate party leftovers, watched cartoons, and turned in early.

On the 19th, the party leftovers were waning and the grocery staples were depleting. The dryer wasn’t working again. Everyone was grumpy. I did errands and some cleaning with my eyes half shut. I can’t remember much. That’s probably good.

On the 20th, the kids revolted when I offered to cook them up a fine box of mac ‘n’ cheese for breakfast. Lengthy grocery store trips with one child who refused to bathe and brush and the other who was sensitive, and fragile, led to forgotten list items (milk anyone?) and over purchase of non-essentials (zesty garlic pickle spears). Upon the return from the store, I then cleaned the house top to bottom, room to room. I was hoping to sneak away to ballet dance class that night, but after being summoned to initiate a baby bird rescue effort that ended up going astray (the bird was fine, but my head got covered in dirt, pine needles, and bird poop), it was not to be. After wash-rinse-repeating three times to get the crud out of my hair, there would be no way to make it on time. I missed out again.

Or did I?

As the kid’s nerves of excitement, nerves of steel, and the nervous nerves of returning to school are currently in play, my nerves are a little shook too. There will be a day, a day that will be here in a blink, where it gets really quiet in the house. And that day, the house will be clean, the fridge will be stocked, and I will feel well rested. My calendar will tell the tale of earlier missed things all revisited, and with ease. Whether I am dancing, studying French, playing the flute, or sword fighting, what does it matter? It’s great to have your stuff, your deal, and heck, YOU as a whole, but I know, in my heart of hearts, I’ll remember those squished summer days with fondness, a deep breath, and a smile.

And frankly, give me some more squished days, little kiddos, and summertime, summertime, summertime any day. I’ll take ‘em, maybe not easily, but I’ll take ‘em.


JosephMcG said...

Wonderful love story. The aches and pains and smiles of being human, a parent, working through the real stuff... all for love...

Was it worth it... you betcha...

Lorraine Hart said...

Ah Kim, how you take me back! I can remember summers full to bursting, managing two kids, growing a veggie garden, macrameing, embroidering, field trips and all the stuff of young family. Makes me tired just to remember!

Another tip I took from my mother-in-law, who was such a wonderful grandmother...was about birthday parties. Her recommendation was to invite as many kids as the age of your child. That is to say...a three year-old has three friends over...a seven yr-old, seven. It kept parties from being the huge task and stress that I see so many parents letting themselves in for today.

I tell you though...all the seasons seem to be going by in a blink...but time invested in our kids give lots of memories to dance with, once they're grown.

Kim Thompson said...

Hi friends!

Yes, Joseph, it's worth it, even if you don't see it at the time.

Hey, Lorraine, it was fun to see you go back in time with your kiddos and to hear your lovely wisdom. For Erin's party, we did follow that fine idea, but then we included extended families, extra adults, and then it grew. But you know what? All had a good time and it worked.

Next year, we'll go a bit simpler I suspect. But maybe not! And that's the ticket: a young family is an unpredictable family and in the end, it all good.


Stephanie Frieze said...

Kim, I like Lorraine's mother-in-law's idea of one guest for each year of age! Boy, that would have been easier the July my youngest turned seven and it was the only day all month that it rained. I ended up with ten little boys in the house!

Give me days with the kids home over days they are at school anytime! Although Autumn is my favorite season, I was always as sorry for school to start as my children were.

JosephMcG said...

How many folks should I invite over for my sixty eighth... September 9?


Kim Thompson said...


10 little boys in the house? Oh, my Lord, you poor thing. At least I had a mix of girls and boys.

I love autumn, too, but it sure can be a time of transition, good and well, wistful.

Joseph, first off I can't believe that you are 68 (you don't look it!). Second, honey, you can have as many guests as you want!!! Go Virgos, go Virgos!

Kim, Another Virgo

Patty Cake said...

Wonderful story, Kim!

I like how you used a Hello Kitty band aid. I think every parent can relate to trying to get ready for a birthday party and every think goes wrong in the mean time!

You are a great mother!

Kim Thompson said...

Oh, thanks sweetie, friend, Patty! I recently got some bandaids in the shape of bacon strips. Now that would be something to wear on the face!

KR said...

Kim -

I feel especially compelled to comment, having been fortunate enough to attend the party. You forgot to mention the key element of planning for kids parties that you got spot-on: Keep them outside. Then you got extra bonus points for allowing for an activity that kept them reasonably sedated - swimming for an hour.

Despite the ninety degree heat and sugar infusion, my children were blissed out from the mid-day swim. Thanks again,


Kim Thompson said...

Hey, K:

Yes, that's the beauty of summer birthdays!

And with kids this age? Turn 'em out to party and play, burn 'em out by the time the food is served!

Thanks for being sweet!