How to Hold On to Summer

The summer break is about to end. While here in Toronto it was a bit of an anti-summer weather wise, i’m sad to see it go. We filled it with a lot of exciting and fun events, trips, and activities. It was also filled with sibling fights and mosquito bites. That said, i know it’s so easy to move into Fall and the usual routine and forget all to quickly about the lovely memories we built over the summer.

In my work as well as home life, i work on ways to hold on to the good stuff. I don’t know about you, but i so rarely print photographs, and my annual photo book is done in December. So, in a time where we don’t have the traditional way to hold onto memories (photographs), i wanted to share with you some simple but helpful ways to hold onto summer.

Draw a PostCard
As someone who uses expressive arts therapy in my work, i really love this first exercise. My daughter is the crafter in our house and she can go through pages and pages of papers with her drawing. I have a collection of postcard size canvases. You can get them at a local arts and craft store or even a Dollar store.

Think if a symbol or image that you especially loved or resonated with this summer. It could be a slice of watermelon, an umbrella, tent, ice cream cone, sunflower. Spend some time recalling a specific event or day that connects to this image. For instance, here are some of my examples: As a family, we spent a few Sunday afternoons last year creating this communal painting of our trip to New York. My daughter drew a scene of our week at the cottage (top right). Get out your crayons, pencil crayons, markers, pastels or paints. Pause so you can capture the feeling in your body and then draw to your heart’s content. The time we spend creating this image and using our hands to draw can help send a message back to our brain to really capture the memory. It’s like when we have to learn something new or study for a test – if we actually practice, we can really hold onto the info.

Remember this is not art class and no one will judge your work. After you feel happy with your work, find a place that you can notice it over the next few weeks or month. It will help you take pause in the day when you feel that life is moving on and away from that lovely day in summer.

Phone Selfie
I love how you can take a photo of your phone – if you have an iPhone like i do. I also love changing my wallpaper on my cell phone and computer. I update it it seasonaly, to find another way to hold onto something i especially loved. It’s a good way to sneak a peak of something that was a good and positive time in your life. I’ve done this with my donut donut – remember my last post where i spoke about it? You can do it with updating your social media photo too – not for anyone else but as a way to help you recall a memory that you want to hold onto. So, right now on my phone, i have my beloved donut donut and legs floating in the water.

This is a great way to take pause in the busy day-to-day. Most of us have our cell phones with us, or access a computer. Why not make it personal and add a photo or an inspirational quote that really speaks to you? When life seems to be overwhelming, this is a great tool where you can regroup how you are feeling and can help slow down life just enough to help take care of you. I love that this simple activity can be a tool to help you be in control of your emotions, as easy as clicking on your phone to see this helpful image!

Resource Anchor Work
In therapy work, there is some great information about how using these images as symbols to help us create a state of being that is our desired state. Here’s one example: Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). You can find out more about it here – it’s a great tool that talks about how to send a message to your brain by doing some repetitive touch and tapping work, and using a part of your body to help connect to it.

Message in a Bottle
I have collected sand, shells, and rocks for years now. For major trips, the kids and i make a scene in a pretty glass jar and keep it in our dining room. We have several jars now and a large bowl of rocks. I notice the kids sometimes sit by the nature table and look at the rocks. I can see them touch it, and connect to the place where they found it. It’s a great exercise to help recall a happy memory for sure, as the relationship of the sense of touch and sight can really help boost our mood.

These are just some of the ways we hold on to summer. What are some ways you do it?

Expectation vs Reality: The Anniversary Edition

This weekend was a special anniversary for me. I’ve been with my partner for 17 years. Call me sentimental but i like to honour that. So, when our favourite summer music festival changed the dates on us, we (naively?) thought we could still all go and enjoy ourselves.

Typically, my partner and i go to the Hillside by ourselves for most of the weekend, and bring the kidlets on Sunday. It’s a win-win: we spend the day outdoors listening to music we love, and the kids stay at a pool with their cousins for the day. This year, as the festival dates fell right on our special day, we tried to have the best of both worlds – take the kids to the festival AND be all romantic like.

It almost worked.

We decided to take the kids camping at a nearby conservation park. One that was part of the early days of my dating life with my partner. We are by no means camping experts, but we go each year. This year, we jumped on a recent sale and bought a 6-person tent. One that my partner (all 6 feet of them) could stand in. We also treated ourselves to those fold-up chairs. So fancy. What we didn’t plan was the tantrum both kids threw when we told them there were no more caves to walk to and discover. That the first night away from home is always a shit show. That the Elora Quarry was too full at 2:00 to allow us to go swimming. That they couldn’t finish that world’s biggest lollipop on an empty stomach. All this was on the Saturday, which was my special day. MINE.

In the midst of all this, my son lost his newly bought souvenir. He’s been wanting ‘real gold’ for a while: why, i have no idea but it’s a thing. And so when we found this dig-your-own gold nugget toy, we treated him to one. In the span of an hour, he forgot where he left it. We were already back at the camp site when he wanted to dig for his gold. Our tensions were already high from the shit show i mentioned above. A part of me really just wanted him to Learn His Lesson for losing yet another belonging. But another part of me wanted to just turn the day around. I went with that decision. He and i ended up having a lovely scavenger hunt for it in town (kind of like pirates we are!) and no we didn’t find it. So what did this great and understanding parent do? I bought him a new one. Yes i did. We told the store clerk what happened and she said ‘you’re the world’s best mom.’ No, i’m not but i did tell her i did it for me too – it would make MY day better too: and he did learn a lesson – we agreed he was going to pay me back

Call me selfish i guess. I did get the best hug ever after from lil c, and he made sure that all his body was hugging mine. And, did he found gold? No. He lucked with a plain ole rock. Has he left it in his pocket and forgotten about it? Yes he has.

Ahoy matey!

But, we all had a good night’s sleep in this massive tent, with our cozy sleeping bags. And we went to Hillside recharged and refreshed. We selvedged the weekend and had a glorious time at our annual summer music festival.

One thing that i will especially treasure if my older kid (lil c) has recently discovered his own style of music. He appreciates music and performance and jumped right in there appreciating it all: This is what i hope to give him with our annual ritual of going here. My youngest (Miss M) was happy just to go around and around (and around) on the homemade Merry Go Round.

While it wasn’t exactly what i wanted, i did get to enjoy a favourite musician, eat great food, and see the night sky. I got to cuddle with my sweetie and remember why we are still going strong 17 years later. That counts for something and i’m so glad we honoured our tradition. I love this chocolate – the names were as much action as i got this weekend. But the chocolate was amazing.

Vacations

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As today begins a new school year, summer break is officially over. This is a time for a big shift in routine, rhythm, and real life. While most of us as adults don’t have a break from ‘real life’ like our children do, summer still brings a slowness to life and a happier approach to daily living.

I like to think of September as an opportunity for change and renewal. It seems like a more realistic opportunity to make space for New Year’s resolutions and the pledges we make for change. Maybe I’m just being optimistic though: I like to think September as the new January.

One pledge i am working on is to hold on to the summer slowness as long as possible. Here’s why:

I was listening to a story on the news last week that shared new research about the vacations we take. It really sat with me. As I was able to go on a vacation with the family this summer, I truly relished the gift of being away from home and everyday life. It was a wonderful trip, though it came with stressors of heat waves, stitches (we’re all okay now), sibling arguments and spending over budget. What this new research shows is that it takes just about a week (or two if we are lucky) to get back to this so-called real life after we go away, or at least take a break from it. It also shows that it’s best to spread out our vacation time over the course of the year, so that we don’t use up all those great relaxed and happy feelings that come being on a break. The article further shares that people who do (and can and are privileged to) take vacation, are healthier both physically and mentally.

Of course, as a mama to 2 young children, my vacation time is not truly a break for me but rather a trip to a new place where i still have to cook, clean, pick up, tidy, and coordinate my kids daily lives. Sometimes a trip is actually more work than being at home as we don’t have the luxuries of our usual appliances, etc. So, it’s important to be mindful and intentional with what you need too. Maybe we can’t take a trip without our children – or you don’t want to – but in that time away, make a point to take time for yourself. Be it a long shower, reading in bed after the kids go to bed, morning walks, a quick get away in the canoe, and even turning the work of cooking in a leisury act.

It also helps to do things to savor the good memories from you summer vacation. This helps us reflect and stay mindful of the moments we hold dear. In our family, we keep a weekly Highlight Jar where we share things that happened in the week that made us happy. We do this each Sunday at dinner. We also make a communal art work that depicts something we cherish. This year, we are making a painting together where each of us share 1 thing from our trip that we loved. Other families I know make photo books just as summer is ending so that they can look at the books in the Fall and Winter, in order to stay connected to the good times of summer. And look at this sweet crafty idea, a new message in a bottle of sorts!

What will you do to help you stay mindful to the things you loved about this summer?

A Simple Summer

m caterpillar

Today starts the summer break for school age children and their parents. It carries with it a lot of excitement, expectation, and ideas.

I can remember some key summer days with my sister and our friends. What I remember is playing in the various backyards, school playgrounds, and fields. I remember eating a lot of popsicles, freezies, and fruit. I remember shucking peas out of their shells, making tie-dyed tops, and making friendship bracelets. I remember playing with bugs, caterpillars, and frogs.

What I don’t remember is the work my mom had to put into it all but I’m sure she did. I do know I loved summer more than any other time. Maybe because it was fun, maybe because I was with my bestest friends, and maybe because there was no pressure of school. But I do think ultimately it was because it was simple, sweet, and unhurried.

In this day of gadgets, play dates, summer camps, and full agendas, lets also remember that its ok to not do anything at all some of the time – to just unwind and put your collective feet up. The kids won’t mind. Really they won’t. They too will relish the time to do nothing and (egads) be a bit bored. It won’t last long, really.

Give yourself a break too – your children will love summer anyway and we too deserve to put our feet up with a cold class of lemonade. They remember the fun days of summer and we need to as well. So put down your agenda and to-do list and help yourself to your (third) popsicle today.

Here is a link to a lovely site that honours a Simpler Summer: Simplicity Community And for more good reading about summer, check out this article. Oh and ETA a similar article by Hands Free Mama writer that was written later in the day that i originally posted this – i couldn’t pass this up!