It was good to take ten weeks off from blogging this summer. It was the kind of good that cannot really be explained in few words, perhaps other than to say I read far more than I usually do, experienced a lot of peace and joy, and felt an overwhelming connection to my daughter and husband (particularly in August while he was home on a month long sabbatical). I also finally gave attention to and stared down the barrel of some hard truths. To be honest, the break leaves me wondering whether blogging still fits into my life. My enjoyment of the writing/submission process I am now knee deep in elsewhere suggests that is where my energies will be better focused more of the time. I sense a necessary blogging downgrade in that regard. So does the fact that my daughter is turning eight in mere days. It is increasingly more complex to write about her while maintaining her privacy.
But back to summer.
How do you capture the essence of something like summer? Yes, I can take pictures and that certainly helps. But to me, remembering summer feels like trying to permanently etch into my mind the energy and atmosphere of a live concert; it’s almost impossible to do. It’s too ephemeral. There’s also such an onslaught to all five of our senses during summer. Maybe even more so this summer because of the brutal winter we experienced here.
Summer, in a word, overwhelms.
Still, I want to try to remember those sensations. There are countless things I want to look back upon from this summer, but I’ll choose eight, in honor of my daughter’s birthday this Sunday.
♥ taste ♥
Bing cherry ice cream in Rhode Island
gin & tonic with lime
fresh corn from our CSA box
Moonglow tomatoes from our garden
bratwurst with grilled onions and grainy mustard in Vermont
♥ smell ♥
my daughter’s hair after a week in the ocean
fresh cut grass
unadulterated mountain air
faint musty scent of our summer rental
sunscreen on skin
rosemary in our garden
petrichor through the front door screen after an overdue rainfall
♥ sound ♥
vigorous splashing in the kiddie pool
the click-click-click of puppy toes on wood floors
almost unbearable silence in the mountains
uncontrollable giggles when the puppy hyperruns across the yard
my girl’s continuous serenade of made up songs from another room
the sound of her bare “pony feet” scampering across the house
breezes through the maple tree
♥ touch ♥
her soft hand
sand in my flip flops
the breeze from the ceiling fan
hot leather under my legs
the weight of a book in my hands*
dirt under my fingernails
the cold slick of a sweaty glass
her stuffed cat pressed against my shoulder when I read to her at night
♥ sight ♥
the puff of a Corgi puppy’s tush
bravery on the diving board and in the deep end
the Milky Way in the Vermont night sky
sand castles and deep holes at the water’s edge
dozens of sunsets
my first Indigo Bunting
friendships forming, deepening
and, most of all, her face
I hope you enjoyed your summer too. Tell me, what do you want to remember about this summer?
* the books I read this summer:
Ongoingness: The End of a Diary, Sarah Manguso
The Gracekeepers, Kirsty Logan
Fat Girl Walking, Brittany Gibbons
Single, Carefree, Mellow, Katherine Heiny
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
The Nearest Thing to Life, James Wood
Unless It Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing, Roger Rosenblatt
My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Fredrik Backman
When It Happens to You, Molly Ringwald
The Pawnbroker’s Daughter: A Memoir, Maxine Kumin
The Mermaid of Brooklyn, Amy Shearn
Miss Emily, Nuala O’Connor
Kitchens of the Great Midwest (audiobook), J. Ryan Stradal
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
She caught my eye immediately. With chunky, dimpled thighs that shook when she walked, she held her father’s hand and tried to keep up as they looked for an empty chair near the pool. She couldn’t have been older than three years old. Her hot pink ruffled bathing suit fluttered with each step as she cautiously eyed the water, now bustling with many noisy children enjoying a post-dinner, pre-bedtime swim. She stayed very close to her father. She was wary, and maybe a bit worried too. But her older sister, maybe eleven or twelve, was already jumping into the pool. She clearly did not need her father anymore. My gaze went back to the little one. I was reminded of how M was that age when we started visiting this special place every year. I was jolted by the knowledge of how far we’ve come since then.
That was the scene in the clubhouse pool where we were on vacation two weeks ago. My husband, M, and I were already swimming when I took this all in. My mind drifted, as it has a tendency to do when in a room full of people I do not know. It dawned on me that, when in a place with other families with children of various ages, my eye always drifts towards the children who are younger than my own daughter (who’s just two months shy of seven). I almost never seem to watch the children who are immersed in the tween and teenage years.
Why is that?, I wondered.
It’s not baby lust. No, I settled that account long ago.
I’ve pondered this over the past few nights. I think it’s because it gives me some perspective, if not relief, to see how far we’ve come from those truly challenging first years. There’s no doubt that there’s now less of a physical toll taken each day, what with all the lifting and carrying that must be done at the start. The unexpected, unpredictable pendulum swings of emotion have largely evened out, for both her and me. I can see that we’ve survived so much, and intact at that. If raising a child were like being in Girl Scouts, I feel like I would have earned the lion’s share of patches by now. There really aren’t too many patches left, though they are arguably going to be the most difficult to endure and acquire.
But it’s more than these things. By looking at our past through the lens of other younger children, I feel like I can appreciate the now of where we are this very moment. I appreciate that she still sidles up next to me for a snuggle or a book, though her body much leaner, more limber now. I appreciate that she still wants to hold my hand but doesn’t have to run to keep up. I appreciate that she sometimes needs help sorting through the tangled knots of understanding friendships or fractions but has enough confidence in herself to figure it out alone much of the time now. I appreciate that her silly, pumpkin smile flashes often and without abandon.
Above all, I feel like I appreciate the relative slowness of time passing right this very moment. It’s much like the hazy, humid days of summer, when you’ve got your feet in the kiddie pool and a lemonade in your hand. You don’t have to move. Everything you need is right in front of you, and the day takes forever to pass. That’s what this age feels like to me. It’s calm and balmy. The air is sticky and sweet. It’s not stormy and unpredictable like the toddler and teenage years.
I think that’s why I am almost fearful of looking at the children older than my daughter. I don’t want to see the blank stares and shoulder shrugs they give their parents. I don’t want to see the almost total lack of physical contact or desire for affection on the part of those children. I don’t want to see the failed attempts at understanding one another. I don’t want to see tempo of time tick faster as it seems to do after children reach a certain age.
Is this turning a blind eye my denial that these years are coming? Perhaps a little bit. But more than that I think it’s an overwhelming appreciation for right now. How good it is right this very moment with a child who can do so much independently and yet who still needs . . . no, wants . . . my guidance, wisdom, and insight. How good it is with a child who is comfortable in her own skin, whether she’s by my side or not.
I’m standing in a very magical place right now, and I know it. A lovely, long plateau—I think, I hope—if you will. There is a sweetness and innocence in the air around me. The light is beautiful from where I stand. I can see clearly in all directions, both from where I’ve come and where I’m likely to go. But for me, I realize that the view at my feet and of the footsteps behind me allow for so much gratitude, perhaps more than the uncharted trails ahead.
Copyright (c) 2014 Kristen M. Ploetz
I am just back from our annual family/friend vacation in New Hampshire. As in just back three hours ago. There are two posts brewing in my mind from that trip, but they need a little space and less laundry giving me the stink eye before I can get those thoughts to gel more cogently. Suffice it to say, pool and lakeside people watching lends itself to some very good material for writing. More to come on that front soon.
Instead, I wanted to share some of the things that are making me smile on this summer vacation which, so far, is only nine days old. But still. I can tell they will be summer staples, and so I thought I’d share.
Athleta Sweet Sport Skort (and Printed Sweet Sport Skort) I’m not sure if it was turning 40, but something about this year has made me want to wear fewer shorts and more skirts and dresses during the summer. Except they are not always practical when I need to be a bit more active and “show a little leg” in the process. Getting on rides at Storyland—and getting wet on said rides—is a very recent example. I feel self-conscious in shorts (and also my perimenopausal body), and more so in skirts which might blow up and reveal the granny underwear that often lurks beneath. Well, thank you, Athleta, for these skorts! They have changed my life. Athleta has many styles and lengths of skorts, and I’ve only tried the Sweet Sport version so far (they make a Sweet Sport Skort Active version which is about 2.5 inches shorter than the one I am wearing, which is just Sweet Sport Skort). I bought one in black and one in granite grey stripe and I have been wearing them virtually nonstop. They are beyond comfortable and forgiving, and you can look sporty or fairly polished depending on shirt/shoes that you choose. It has a pocket on the bottom of the right hem where my iPhone conveniently fits, which is insanely helpful. I also sweat fairly easily and thankfully they are really good at wicking away moisture and drying quickly (i.e. after the log flume ride or hot mountain hikes). Highly recommend. I also noticed they are on sale for less than what I paid, so that’s a plus too.
Other than ice water, hands down favorite thirst quencher this summer is VitaCoco Coconut Water Lemonade.
Want something pretty and fizzy to serve at your BBQ? Fentimans Rose Lemonade is so lovely and great on ice. I might try to liven it up for a party with a splash of vodka, but it’s really wonderful all on its own. Unusual but yummy taste, with a kick of ginger and rose oil. Would make a special little hostess gift too, I think.
My go-to summer cocktail has been simply this: shot of vodka (loving Reyka from Iceland right now), hearty pour of tonic water, and quarter of a lime.
I have been living in my Teva Olowahu flip flops this summer. It’s my first pair of flip flops that have more than one strap, and I admit was skeptical at first, but once I put them on my feet? Pure comfort. I happened to buy mine via Zappos.com where I purchased a two-pack: one in black on black, and the other in Hideaway purple. Honestly I have only worn the purple ones pretty much nonstop.
I’ve set aside a few books specifically for summer reading. I’ve already finished After the Sour Lemon Moon, by Denise Parsons. I really enjoyed this novel and intend to write a separate blog post about it in the coming weeks. But suffice it to say that I was enchanted with the central character’s story from the beginning. It’s a first person perspective, something I don’t recall having read much of over the past few years (other than memoirs and one novel). I liked how this story unfolded, and the prose and imagery was really quite lovely. It’s also the first time I’ve ever purchased a print-on-demand book. I must say, the whole process was easy/efficient (it arrived very quickly) and was printed in a heft of paper that I was delighted to see (read: not chintzy!). And just a side note here: this is the second book that I purchased because of getting to “know” the person/author via social media BEFORE knowing about the book (the first occasion was with Jessica Vealiztek’s The Rooms are Filled). I have followed Denise Parsons on Instagram (@chezdanisse) for a while now and she follows me there too; she is so lovely and thoughtful in her photos, as well as her blog, that I thought I couldn’t miss with her first novel either. I was spot on in my assumption. Anyway, I mention this to give a hat tip to how social media really can open up the door for authors and writers in ways that one might not expect.
Lastly, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, my migraine situation means no more nuts, chocolate, or peanut butter (among other things) for me. This basically means that I cannot eat ANY of my favorite flavors of ice cream anymore, which is hugely depressing. Except that I have found at least one really good stand in at the grocery store: Stone Ridge Creamery ice cream in Salted Caramel. On the premium ice cream spectrum I wouldn’t say it’s at the top in terms of creaminess, but taste? Yes. The caramel is quite good, at least insofar as it’s standing in for peanut butter, and there’s plenty of it. I’m still on the hunt for other flavors this summer, but this one is keeping my attention right now. And, OK, if you want to be “healthy” once in a while, you can’t go wrong with Haagen-Dazs Zesty Lemon Sorbet, which I ate pretty much daily by the GALLON when I was pregnant with M . . . gulp . . . seven summers ago.
What’s got you smiling this summer?
Copyright (c) 2014 Kristen M. Ploetz
We’ve got a little poison ivy going on in this house. Well, M does at least. A small patch of it somehow ended up on her leg after she and I went to the Blue Hills (Milton, MA) to see the river otter, snowy owl and friends on Tuesday. It looks small, but the itching has been huge. There was some middle of the night lotions and potions applied, but it seems that the rash is still in the angry phase. But, that’s part of growing up and part of summer, I suppose. Today marks the start of a three-day whirlwind of friends and family that we will see here at home in Quincy, Blackstone, and Plymouth, MA. Friends who’ve traveled from the D.C. area and family from Ohio and (locally too). I am sure there will be many belly laughs and full bellies among the first wave of us cousins, and now the second wave that ranges in age from 9 months to 10 years old. Which means it is time to gas up the car, and that is where M and her dad are headed now. What is it about kids that they will not want to go on an errand like that unless you mention that they can stay in their PJ’s? And, of course, M is insistent on bringing (and changing) Emma and Paul, her beloved brother and sister dolls that she cares for on a level that puts my mothering to shame. She loves to play with her dad with these dolls. She’s in that sweet stage of life where she thinks she is (and wants to be) married to daddy. Soundtrack: Neighbor’s dog barking, my feet sticking to the wood floors in this already unbearable humidity and heat, the air conditioner now trying to catch up to our not-so-great idea of having the windows open this morning, M and her dad plotting what Emma and Paul should wear today, the freezer ice maker getting ready for the many cold libations to be had over the course of the next 72 hours, and the washing machine catching up with all of our bug-spray, sunscreen filled adventures of the week past. Happy Fourth of July!
Copyright (c) 2013 Kristen M. Ploetz
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