This summer has been different than the others.  It didn’t start out as intentionally different.  But because of my own need for less of a schedule, more simplicity, and down time it became something that seems a little more like summer.

In the past couple of years our summers have been jam packed…the older boys had weekly book clubs at our house, we did multiple sport camps, music lessons, swim lessons, lots of traveling, and a list a mile long of what we were going to do.  And as school ended we made the list, we started the end of the school year with a trip that ended in car issues, and a whole other slew of circumstances took our summer in a different direction.  And I realized we had an opportunity to do something different. That we needed to…take back summer.  Without really planning we took on the Fruits of the Holy Spirit and began to do summer differently.

So here’s what we did…

Love. Taking back the love of Baseball.  We never really stopped LOVING baseball, but this summer we enjoyed it more than ever. So we took a break from any sport camps.  My boys just played baseball.  In the back yard.  With their teams.  Daniel’s team made it to the championship and took second.  Jonah’s swept districts and went to State.  And it hasn’t stopped. They play baseball for hours every day, together.  We don’t have to set an alarm and they play until it’s dark outside. Maybe next summer will be different, but this summer – they had enough magic with their teams to last the rest of the summer. And the magic wasn’t because their teams did well. It was because they were surrounded by kids who loved the game like them.  We all loved every minute of it.

Joy. Taking back the joy of Simplicity.   I was feeling bad one day the first week of summer that we didn’t belong to the local swim and tennis club, that somehow they were missing out, when Curly and Grace got out the back yard hose.  And played for four straight hours.  They’ve played in the sprinkler and the hose every day.  And when friends come over they do the same.   Last week the kids had made up a game with the hose and a cooler — they spent all day playing it in the heat.  No complaints. Simple dinners on the back porch.  Paper plates.  Simplicity is beautiful.

Peace. Taking back the peace of Last Minute.  I was sad at first, Daniel is full of ideas but we needed to just be and not have any book clubs or weekly things at our house.  So we have done a ton of impromptu play dates.  Last minute.  Nothing planned for weeks ahead. At any moment my husband comes home to kids playing in the back yard, and last minute sleep overs.  Our summer has been filled with laughter and cul de sac marshmellow baseball games, legos and forts, darts and ping pong.  Notebooks are full of comics from comics that Daniel and Micah draw. Grace wears princess dresses and swim suits almost every day.  No one wears shoes. Friends on road trips have stopped by and stayed for hours.  We’ve gotten to hold babies and eat popcicles. Somedays we have just jumped in the car and went to a $1.50 movie.

Patience. Taking back Patience with myself. It’s taken longer then I thought to get past all the hard stuff I’ve been dealing with this past year. What I think of as “the sadness.” Many days have been hard for me to not give into the guilt that I’m not doing more.  Being more for my family.  But than I’ve realized that they didn’t need more.  They just need me.  And so I’ve given myself a pass. A pass to work out because I’m worth it.  A pass to not have my house be spotless  or stress out when people come over and there’s laundry or papers on the counter, because I’m not spotless.  That’s never going to be me.  A pass to have days where I can just sit under the sun and watch my kids play, drinking my diet dr pepper. A pass to forgive myself for not being able to be more to so many people, and to hope that someday they’ll know how hard I was trying.  Trying to get better.  And to work at being ok with that.

Kindness.  Taking back Kindness over Competitiveness.  Recently a good friend told me how a family member was competitive with her, in some invisible competition she was never aware she was a part of.  I thought of how often we are competitive with each other, and I’ve fallen into that in the past summers. We need to do more camps.  More activities. More vacations to keep up.  So instead I am working on just being really kind to every one I meet.  To not falling into any competition.  Because you never really know what someone is dealing with. How a Mom is struggling with parenting. How a couple is struggling in their marriage.  I’ve found that we should rejoice in the kindness we can bring.   Most people could do with a little extra kindness. A little more love is a victory within it self.   And letting that kindness extend to ourselves so we don’t feel pressure to be someone else.  We don’t have to compare. We can just be Real.  Authentic.This summer I’ve been Me, nothing more.   And I’m being kind to her.

Goodness.  Taking back the goodness in “the living is easy.”  Taking a walk around the neighborhood in the evening as a family.  The good stuff.  Going a friend’s house and being the last to leave. The good stuff.  Piling all the bedding downstairs and watching 80’s Movies with the kids that we both loved as kids.  The good stuff.  Sleeping in and eating poptarts for breakfast. The good stuff.  Going to Art in the Vineyard to listen to Danny’s teacher.  The good stuff. Going to a garage sale with Grace and letting her buy something.  The good stuff.  Sitting on my sisters back porch with a glass of red wine. The good stuff. Watching Mariner’s games.  The good stuff. Watching my kids play baseball until dusk.  The good stuff.

Faithfulness.  Taking back our faithfulness in God.  Every night Daniel reminds us to read about the Saint of the Day and pray together as a family.  We make it to daily mass when we can, and try to hit confession.  We light candles after mass.  We even go to mass when we’re camping. Because we all need the sacraments.  Sadness doesn’t go away, but praying helps.  Everyday. This summer we have worked really hard as a family to have faith be the focus.  There is some real evil in the world. It’s not arbritrary or irrational, it’s real.   Our world has been rocked by the horrible atrocities being brought by terrorists on Christians and others with differing faiths in the middle east. Real Horror that I can’t even tell my kids about.  But I can tell them about God. And as a family we are staying united in prayer.  My Mom always says to God be the Glory. She and my sister pray for me everyday and check in.  To God be the Glory.   I believe this.  I need this. We all do.

Gentleness.  Taking back Gentleness in life.  I am far from a perfect wife.  I am not the perfect mother.  But I vow to love those around me.  I vow to try.  I vow to forgive, because I know how much it hurts when someone doesn’t forgive you.  I vow and am working so hard this summer to be gentle with myself.  Gentleness comes in so many ways. A phone call. A text.  Snuggling with one of my kids. Staying up with Jonah when he’s had a hard day and can’t sleep. Offering to help someone, not expecting anything ever in return. Praying with someone. Giving.  Receiving Love without apologizing for being an inconvenience.   Enjoying things that remind us to be gentle…babies, a sick relative, and those prayers we pray late at night when we think of people fighting much bigger things.  Be gentle. Life is Fragile.

Self Control. Taking back self control as a good thing for Summer.  My kids do chores every day, and some days when the living is really easy they don’t all get  of them done.  But this summer they have had more responsibility, and do a list of chores daily.  Jonah has learned to wash his own laundry.  Daniel mows the lawn and waters my hanging plants.  Micah is in charge of feeding the dog every day and making sure she always has fresh water.  Grace is in charge of putting away shoes and dish towels.  And it’s nice to have the help.  One day we spent 8 hours weeding. Another day we spent hours pulling out concrete(okay Grace and I didn’t help much). If you know me, you know I abhor video games — so we haven’t done many of those except for Wii Sports and Just Dance– games where they can enjoy them together and communicate.  And while we haven’t become totally Mobile free in the evenings like I’d like, we’re working on setting limits and being present  to each other always.

Maybe that’s been the biggest lesson this summer.  We shed and took away all the extras and what we got was time together. There really is nothing like that togetherness.  Jonah told me yesterday this is one of the best summers he’s ever had.  And instead of allowing my thoughts of failure get in the way of his words I allowed myself to hear him.  We still have a few weeks left and there’s more to come…for that I’m blessed.

I love my husband. I love my kids. I love Summer.