From Daylillies to Sunflowers

The pink daylilies in our front yard stared blooming last week and peaked a few days ago. It was a week or two earlier than usual. I think they were spurred on by a heat wave that included two or three days of temperatures over one hundred degrees. I was happy to see the lilies, so exuberant on their tall, fragile stems, because they always signal to me that we’re turning the corner and the end of summer, or summer break at least, is within sight. And I needed that reassurance because just around the time they bloomed we were heading into three weeks of no camp for either kid and I was teetering between dread and an optimistic I-can-do-this sort of attitude.

Both kids’ camps were front-loaded this summer. June’s all finished and Noah has just one week left at the end of August. We’re going to the beach the week before that, but before that I need to get through the next two weeks. The first no-camp week is over and done. It was an irregular kind of week. Here’s how it went:

I needed to hire babysitters for June on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings so I could write an article and finish up some other work. Thursday I had jury duty so Beth stayed home and watched the kids. Friday Beth took Noah with her to work. As a result, Monday was the only day I was alone with both kids all day. That day I was up for the challenge. The weather had cooled down some, so we took advantage of the break in the heat to take a walk in the morning and Noah and I mowed the lawn and did some housecleaning, too. It was a pleasant, productive day.

That morning I instituted a new no-fighting behavior chart for the kids. To help get them invested in it, I asked them to design the chart. It had ten spaces for mornings and afternoons, Monday to Friday. I told them if they refrained from fighting in six out of the ten time blocks, we could go out for ice cream after dinner on Friday, and if they got eight stickers there would be an additional, unspecified, reward. They nearly got into an argument while they were making the chart and then again over who would affix the first sticker. But time and time again, I watched them pull themselves back from the brink of arguments, sometimes on their own and sometimes because I had observed mildly, “This is starting to sound like an argument.” I awarded them stickers for four mornings when they spent barely any time together because June was with a sitter or on a play date or Noah was with Beth at work. As long as they did not argue during the little slivers of time they had together, it was good enough. The two biggest fights were on Monday and Tuesday afternoons and they were virtually identical. June got into Noah’s personal space. He asked her to move and she didn’t. He pushed her away and she came crying to me. The second time I exclaimed brightly about how illuminating the chart system was because now they knew what not to do. It was unclear if they were listening to me. But maybe they were: the final count was seven stickers.

Friday was probably the most challenging day, even though the kids were separated and I didn’t have to play referee. Because I’d had jury duty the day before and didn’t know when it would end, I had made no plans. I thought about seeing if Mr. Gabe ( was performing at Capital City Cheesecake, as he used to every other Friday morning but it seems that show was discontinued several months ago. I tried for a last-minute play date with five or six different kids, but I came away empty-handed, and by the time I’d waited long enough to be sure the last few people were not going to answer my calls, it was too late to try going to a swimming pool, which I’d considered earlier in the day. June wanted to go to Starbucks, but it was very hot again—104—and I just wasn’t up for the walk.

So June and I stayed in the bedrooms, where it’s air-conditioned, for as much of the day as we could. We read all sixteen stories in Richard Scarry’s Favorite Storybook Ever ( As I read, I reflected that while I like Richard Scarry quite a bit, I’ve read this particular tome many, many times over the past seven or eight years and if we were going to have a marathon reading session, I’d like something fresher. I glanced at the bookshelf and picked three books I’ve never read to June: a collection of Raggedy Ann stories that used to belong to YaYa when she was a little girl, Stuart Little and Little House in the Big Woods. She chose Little House. At first it seemed like she wasn’t paying attention and I thought we wouldn’t make it very far, but she kept asking for another chapter and we read more than half of it over the course of the day. In between she watched television, played some games on the PBS Kids website (, drew, and took a two hour, twenty minute nap. She never got out of her pajamas.

She did brave the yard a couple times in order to ride her bouncy pony and at various points she was wearing a sweater (!), a tiara, a beaded necklace and a purple satin cape because the game she was playing required it. While I was in the garden picking lettuce, I let her slip under the netting and eat cherry tomatoes right off the plant.

When Beth and Noah got home, we ate frozen pizza, mozzarella sticks and salad. Our tomatoes are all ripening at once so it was more like a tomato and cucumber salad on a thin bed of lettuce. Then Beth and June went to go buy ice cream and toppings from the 7-Eleven (June got to choose the ice cream source this week) while Noah and I squeezed in some Harry Potter. We’re up to Book 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Noah wanted to read two chapters and both kids needed baths so it was the kind of evening that feels like a race against bedtime.

Next week will be busy, too: Noah has his psychological evaluation on Monday and Friday and I will need to run him up to Silver Spring and back. Wednesday June has a music class and Noah has a drum lesson. Thursday they both have pediatrician visits. We’re going to spend a lot of time on public transportation so the week will be its own kind of challenging.

While June and I were in the garden Friday afternoon, I noticed that the tallest sunflower had bloomed. We grew sunflowers for the first time when Noah was a toddler and I had initially hoped to harvest the seeds. Now I think of them as decorative birdfeeders and they do draw yellow finches to the yard. I think these might be our tallest ones yet. Beth commented when I showed her the flower today that it’s satisfying to grow something so huge from a tiny seed. It feels like an accomplishment, like sending off an article and a set of abstracts on a no-camp week, like getting through the no-camp week with everyone getting along well enough for a sweet, cold treat at the end.