It’s summer vacation again, my fourth as a stay at home mom. Every year I work hard to find the balance between planning enough activities to keep my kiddos busy, and yet leaving us enough downtime to enjoy our summer. Every year I do things a little bit differently, and learn another important lesson for the following summer.
I thought that I finally had it down. This summer was going to be the summer that I finally perfected that balance. I had registered my kids for camps for a good chunk of the summer again. They loved them last year, and we were actually doing an exact repeat of the ones from last summer. The lesson I learned with so many camps is that on a camp week, camp is enough. I don’t necessarily need to plan additional activities for those days. If the opportunity presents itself, then great we will take it, but no need to fabricate activities either.
The other thing that we’ve done every previous summer was to have a big project. The first year it was to put on a play. We spent almost all of the summer creating props and backdrops, and writing the play itself. (That started as a small project, I had no idea it would end up taking me 8 weeks to complete it.) The second year we made home made volcanos. It looked so fun, and I remember discovering the joy of watching baking soda and vinegar react together from when I was a kid. That one turned out super messy, and again took us most of the summer to complete. Last summer I decided to focus on semi-educational things for our big project, and I realized that the age difference between Brendan and the others meant that I would probably need to do two projects. So the little ones worked on an alphabet train while Brendan focused on creating a 50 states book.
Of the three, last summer’s project was the most fun for all of us I think. But it was a lot of work, the most work I’d put into a summer project so far. So this spring I sat down and thought about what I wanted my kids to remember about summer vacation. I thought about my own summer vacations as a kid and tried to think about the memories that stuck out most about them. What struck me most profoundly was that my parents both worked, so my vacations were not filled with endless camps, and projects and things to keep me busy. Mine were filled with relaxation and downtime. Yes, there were days of boredom but I was also able to just be a kid.
So that was my master plan this year. Camps would go on as normal, but in between there would be down time. I had no other major things planned for the summer. If the kids began to show signs of boredom then we would plan an activity, things like bowling or going to the zoo. Things we could throw together last minute.
The first week of summer vacation went exactly according to plan. May was an extraordinarily busy month for us, with school activities all but three days that month. So that first week of vacation we pretty much did nothing but enjoy the fact that we had nothing to do. It was perfect. Then came the fly in the ointment. Moving.
Let me back up a little bit. We moved into our current house about 10 years ago. When we bought the house it seemed perfect for us. It was a nice large three bedroom ranch house with a finished basement. The kids bedrooms were a bit smaller than I liked but with that huge basement turned into a playroom it didn’t really matter. We figured this was it for us, no need to ever move again. When we moved in we had only one child, but my husband is one of four kids and he shared a room for a good chunk of his life, so we figured even if we had more than two kids we’d be in good shape to stay here.
What we didn’t count on was Cameron. Cameron is, unfortunately, an insomniac. While Brendan needs a lot of sleep most nights to function, Cameron needs very little. There are nights that he will still be awake at 11:00, and then up the next morning at 5:30. It would be fine if he could read a book, or lay quietly and try to fall asleep, but he can’t. If Cameron is awake he is active. It was really bad for a while because we would put him to bed at night and then spend the following two hours shoo-ing him back into bed every 5 minutes. The combination of working with a psychologist and putting him on melatonin at night has at least kept him in bed at bedtime. But he needs something to do to keep him occupied while his brain winds down. What we’ve found works best for him is transformers. He loves to sit there and transform them back and forth between robot and vehicle mode.
While this works well for Cameron it does not for his room mate. The constant clicking sounds from the toys and the fact that Cameron can’t seem to have mini transformers battles in his head makes enough noise to make Brendan crazy. As Brendan’s gotten older he tends to like to stay up later at night when we will let him, so weekends and summer vacation aren’t as bad, but during the school year when he needs a lot of sleep at night is the worst. So Matt and I decided to look into building another bedroom in the basement so the kids could each have their own room.
We have been working on this for close to 6 months. Call a contractor, schedule an appointment, wait weeks (or sometimes months, and in one case never) for them to get back to us with a quote. Realize the quote is way more than we can afford to do and start the whole process over again. While all this was going on, our next door neighbors put their house up for sale. We have a very good relationship with our neighbor and we were very sad to see that they wouldn’t be living there any more. I talked to my neighbor about why they were moving and it was a problem similar to ours. They also have three kids and just needed more space. When I told them about what our plan was, and the lack of success we’d been having with it they suggested we move as well. (my neighbor is a realtor by the way) I laughed off the suggestion and said that we’d need to find a house bigger than what we had now, but with a payment no larger, and the target area would be miniscule as I absolutely refused to move out of the kids current elementary school zone.
Wouldn’t you know it, but a house meeting every single box on my criteria hit the market shortly after that conversation. It could not be more perfect. For about the same cost as putting a bedroom and bathroom into my current home we would end up with more square footage than we have today, 5 bedrooms instead of 4, 4 bathrooms instead of 3, and best of all the backyard at the house literally backs up to the elementary school. So Cameron and Kaylee can walk to school every single day. We know the neighborhood around the school has a lot of more upscale housing, so the price tag on the house was amazing to us, but we didn’t hold out hope that the condition of the house would satisfy our needs so I asked my neighbor to take us through the house so we could see for ourselves.
In person the house continued to deliver, and I could quickly see myself living there. Matt was a bit harder to sell on the subject and it took another week to convince him that it would be a good thing. He knew that moving was going to be a lot of work, and he still thought it would be easier to build onto our current house. We sat down with our neighbor again to discuss our options. His house (identical to mine by the way) had just sold and he’d had multiple offers on it so he knew that there were buyers ripe to make a move now as opposed to later. So with no time for preparation, Matt and I spent a frantic weekend decluttering our whole house. With only two days to get things done all we had time to do was basically shove everything into our storage room and pray that we’d have time once the house went on the market to get the stuff in the storage room moved to a storage shed.
But we didn’t. My neighbor was right about one thing, there was definitely some interest in the house. In the first week the house was on the market we had a dozen showings. The last two days of the week things finally began to slow down, and he met with us again to discuss our options. No offers were made on the house and people could not seem to get past the fact that our carpet is in terrible shape. (we knew that going into this and were hoping that we could make the sale by giving the buyer a carpet allowance). His recommendation was to take the house off the market for a few days, throw a fresh coat of paint onto the walls and replace the carpet.
Which brings me to today. Summer vacation; one week of relaxation, followed by a weekend filled with 15 hour days of backbreaking work, another week of frantic cleaning to keep the house showing ready, and finally a week of packing and moving things into a storage shed and painting. It’s hard to believe that three weeks ago the kids were just getting out of school, and that three weeks ago moving wasn’t even close to being on our radar.
It hasn’t been the summer that I planned, but the kids are all for the changes made. Matt was concerned that an upheaval like this would upset the kids a lot. But Brendan is thrilled about the prospect of getting his own room, Cameron is thrilled that we will get to live closer to the school, and Kaylee…well not much phases that girl. So here’s to our new adventure.