Tag Archives: summer

What I Learned on Summer Vacation

I’m recovering from a not entirely restful week of family vacation.  In looking back over the days spent at a lovely beach rental in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I’ve gained some interesting insights:

Hello. My name is Lunch.

Don’t name anything you might possibly eat.  Blue crabs are delicious.  They are also a little sad when they are scrabbling around in the crab pot.  I feel much better about picking them apart and devouring them if I don’t see the lovely morsels until they are already on ice and ready for the pot.

Olympic Beach Badminton

Are you sure that’s not a real Olympic event?  Everything else seems to be.  White water canoeing, synchronized diving, beach volleyball, and trampoline are recent additions to the Summer Games.  Who knew the kids in the neighbor’s backyard might actually be young Olympians in training on the trampoline cage?  Of course, Junior (pictured above) takes every sport seriously.  He did stick that landing, in case you were wondering.

When did my kids stop being kids?  Two weeks to go until SuzyQ leaves the nest.  Junior towers over me.  This is a bittersweet time of life.  Yes, children, you have a sentimental Mom.

 

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I Could Use a Little Brain Freeze

 

Image courtesy of Dennis Jernberg

“Temperatures and humidity soar!!  In July!!”  Apparently, this is big news.  Summer has brought heat.  Go figure.  And the summertime heat is newsworthy even though most of us won’t leave our air-conditioned homes, cars, or workplaces for more than the few moments it takes to get from one door to the other. 

Nevertheless, even the Uncommonhousewife has suffered some of the effects of this epic heat wave:

  • The heat has fried my brain.  Just sucked all of the creativity right out of it.  Hence the absence of posts here.  In fact, the first anniversary of the Uncommonhousewife Blog came and went without fanfare largely because I was too lethargic to muster up an enthusiastic celebratory post.  We will just observe the event later.
  • Potential colleges can be ruled out simply by looking at the thermometer.  It doesn’t matter if the school is drop-dead gorgeous, perfect in every way.  The fact that the “Feels Like” temperature was 112 degrees while we were there cancels out everything else.  By the way, the inverse of this theorem is equally true: Temperatures below 35 degrees result in elimination from the list.  Oh.  And there’s a corollary for precipitation during the campus visit, too.
  • Higher temperatures result in larger traffic jams.  I have not yet puzzled out the reason for this, but I have anecdotal evidence that it is true.  And what compares to standing still on I-95 for no apparent reason while the car thermometer climbs over 106?  Wanna arrive at your destination with a smile on your face?  Sorry.  Maybe next week, when the pavement stops melting.
  • The hotter it gets, the less “housewifery” the Uncommonhousewife does.  It’s a sad fact around here that I become far less motivated to cook, clean, or do laundry when the heat is oppressive.  That’s why my flower beds are looking less cultivated and more “au naturel” these days.  Weeding in this heat?  No thanks.  And times like these are exactly why everyone in the household has at least 2 weeks worth of underwear.  Dryers are, after all, nothing but large heat generators by nature.

So the point of all this is just a big “Don’t get your hopes up.”  Creative genius, dust-free living room, fresh-and-clean sheets every week: maybe later.  Maybe after I have a great big soft-serve vanilla ice cream cone and get a brain freeze.  Shut up.  It’s for the good of the family.

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Summer of the Campus Tour

Today is the last day for the school bus to circle around my cul-de-sac.  Soon, there will be children everywhere, all hours of the day and night, frolicking around the neighborhood.  Gaggles of teens will collect on the corners in the neighborhood or sit in the middle of the street after dark (seems to be their favorite past-time).  I’ll hear lots of splashing and shrieking and music blasting from the swimming pools on the other side of the fences surrounding our house.  And new sets of skid marks will appear mysteriously on the streets when morning comes after nights of teens being reckless on the “safety” of quiet neighborhood lanes.  Typical summer in the ‘burbs.

Not for us, though.  SuzyQ and I are planning to hit the ground running to visit colleges this summer.  Sigh.  It makes complete sense.  If we travel around and visit now, it will be SO much easier than trying to squeeze in those trips in the fall between rehearsals and concerts and karate classes and the SAT again and heavy schoolwork.  Thus, my calendar is already filling with SuzyQ’s  appointments all over the eastern United States.

My formula is to add in some fun during each visit.  We will shop for antiques and vintage clothes and then eat BBQ in Memphis.  We’ll stay in a Bed and Breakfast in coastal South Carolina and hit the beach.  Do a little outlet shopping in Williamsburg.  Maybe squeeze a museum visit into a Washington DC trip.  Because, let’s face it: college visits are stressful.  SuzyQ is trying to picture herself on each campus and decide what it will feel like to actually live there 9 months out of the year.  I’m trying to imagine SuzyQ there and predict whether she will be happy or whether Darling Husband and I will worry ourselves into the ground 9 months out of each year while she’s there.  Not to mention trying to determine whether that particular school is worth the monster investment of money it will take to send her there.  And do the tour guides really have to point out all of the recycle bins on campus to prove how “green” and “sustainable” the school is?  And only in the bizarre worlds of college admission and financial aid is it a bad thing to come from a stable family with 2 parents (who live together and are of the opposite sex) who both attended college and are natural-born citizens.  But that’s a rant for another post.

Here’s the thing that amazes me after each campus visit: My take-away impressions are generally completely different from SuzyQ’s no matter what.  If I find the dorms quirky and charming, she thinks they’re just old.  When I think it’s cool that you can walk a few blocks to a fun street full of shops and cafes, she thinks it’s too busy.  Maybe this is a product of the teenage instinct to disagree with parents. 

So we are off and running.  One month and 4 colleges–so far.  Thank goodness for credit card reward points.  Just hoping for good weather and good BBQ.

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Get Ready to Sweat

A few weeks ago, we experienced a minor heat wave with temperatures in the upper 80s for 3 or 4 days.  It was pretty unusual for late April.  I put my foot down, though, and refused to turn on the AC while the calendar still showed April.  I simply was not willing to extend the cooling season another month, since it already runs through October in this part of the country.  Oh, the weeping and wailing that ensued!  You would have thought I had just announced cancellation of our wireless plan or something.  “But Mom, every other house in the neighborhood has the air conditioner running!!”  This was true.  As I drove in and out of the neighborhood, I was hard-pressed to find another house with the windows wide open.  At night, I was serenaded by the whirring of compressors.  Still, I held my ground, and the hot spell broke.

Now that I have flipped to the next page on the calendar, it’s only a matter of time before I’ll have to hit the switch on the thermostat.  Such a small thing, but it’s a big deal to me.  I am all about letting in the fresh air.  Especially after learning recently that our power company is implementing another increase in rates and fees.  The company estimates the average family will see an extra $12 per month on the bill.  That may only be the cost of one takeout pizza, but it’s the principle of the thing that gets me.  I buy Energy Star appliances; I use those stupid compact fluorescent lightbulbs; I keep the thermostat at 79 in summer and 69 in winter.  I am a responsible consumer of electricity, but my bill is still getting bigger!  What is left to cut?

Leaving aside the cost of electricity, though, I have to agree with the notion developed here at Free Range Kids about the societal effects of our dependence on air conditioning.  I believe communities do lose something when everyone closes themselves into their air-conditioned homes for months at a time, not emerging until the heat breaks in October.  Kids plant themselves in front of the computer or TV because “it’s too hot” to play outside.  Adults don’t hang out and socialize in the evenings.  I am really lucky to live in a neighborhood in which social ties often do win out over air conditioning, but what about everyone else’s cul-de-sac?

It’s interesting that people have become so used to blasting cool air that an environment with no AC becomes unbearable.  I grew up without central air and lived to tell about it.  Generations grew up south of the Mason Dixon line, and they got by in spite of the heat and humidity.  Isn’t that what all of those gorgeous southern-style wrap-around porches are for, sitting out on a summer evening and watching the fireflies?  Yeah,  it was hot when I was a kid, but it’s not any hotter now.  Why is it that we all seem to think we will wither up like a parched petunia if we spend any length of time in air over 80 degrees? 

Summer is supposed to be hot.  That’s what makes the ice cream from the walk-up Dairy Freeze taste so good.  That’s why running through the sprinklers is so refreshing.  And why would you ever eat a Popsicle inside??  (Get out the Resolve Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner now!)  Tank tops, camis, sundresses–all meant to be worn in hot weather.  They’re just plain silly in a freezing mall or movie theater. 

I’ll hold out as long as I can on our AC.  These early days of summer-like weather are perfect for airing the dog-cat-dirty laundry smell out of the house.  And I have these bushes in front of the house that will bloom in a week or 2, and they smell beautiful.  If I have the windows open, I’ll be able to smell them from inside, too.  For me, that’s a good enough reason to sweat a little.

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What’s Wrong with Being Bored?

My son is bored.  That’s probably not an uncommon complaint come mid-summer for a 13-year-old.  The novelty of sleeping in has worn off along with the thrill of (nearly) unlimited TV availability.

You see, my son is a “doer.”  He’s at his happiest participating in some physical activity: for instance, golf, swimming, or his latest new love, fishing.  He will spend hours doing online research about the fish native to our area and then head to the local pond to try his luck.  He practices his chipping and putting in my backyard.  He’ll ride his bike, practice backyard archery, and craft things out of invasive bamboo.

The problem is that most of his favorite things are best done with someone else.  However, your typical 13-year-old boy isn’t exactly known for his get up and go.  There are at least 3 other kids my son’s age in our neighborhood, but he doesn’t spend a whole lot of time with them anymore.  Why not?  “All they ever want to do is mess around with their iPod Touch or Play Station.”

So columnist Barbara Kay got my attention when she wrote “In Praise of Boredom.”  She argues that technology along with playdates and structured activities have wiped out childhood boredom.  Why is this a bad thing?  Kay recalls that bored kids used to read back in the “old days,” even if they were only reading comic books.  I would go further and propose that boredom could lead to creativity and innovation, too.  A bored child builds a play house out of empty boxes, writes and puts on a play, goes on a treasure hunt, or teaches himself everything there is to know about something–like fishing.

I’m not anti-technology.  In fact, I think I will ask for an iPhone for my birthday.  But I see too many children (and, yes, teens are children) chained to it, missing out on everything else the world has to offer, including human contact.  Streaming music and video, gaming–these are all using someone else’s creativity.  They don’t require imagination or a desire for learning.

So in case you are reading, my son, I’m not too troubled by your boredom.  I just wish you could get a few friends to be bored with you.

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The Uncommon Housewife Goes Green??

Well, green thumb maybe.  Today, I picked the first cucumber of the summer from my patio garden.  My sad little plant has taken off, and I’ll soon be setting up a table in the front yard to give cucumbers away.    I’m still waiting for my tomatoes and zucchini, but I did get a late start on my garden with our recent move.

I am 100% behind the drive to “eat local”.  I make several trips each week to my local farm stands to buy fruits and vegetables during these plentiful summer months.  Yes, it’s better for the environment because it doesn’t require trucking in vegetables from hundreds of miles away.  So my cucumbers have a tiny carbon footprint…blah, blah, blah.  My reasons for supporting local farmers are a lot simpler than that:

  • I believe that we show our love for God and His Creation by being responsible stewards of that Creation.  As Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus, the earth and its resources have a “…God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray.”
  • My heritage includes a family farm.  My grandfather owned and operated a small dairy farm.  My mother spent many childhood years milking the cows each day.   Having heard the stories of the family farm, I understand the need to protect the livelihood of small, family run farms.
  • Last but not least, locally grown produce just tastes better!  The tomatoes don’t taste like plastic; the cucumbers aren’t coated with wax; and the peaches…Let’s just say, I refuse to buy grocery store peaches -ever- because there is no comparison.

So this suburban, conservative housewife does live green.  I plant my modest vegetable garden each year; I buy my produce from local farmers as often as possible; and I might even try composting.  Above all, I’ll be thanking God for His gift of the earth and all that it contains.

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