Launch Into Summer

School let out today, a Friday, and until Tuesday, sixth grade was still going full tilt. This is what Noah had on tap on Monday and Tuesday:  he took an English final, finished a website for his media class (a portfolio of his work), constructed a twenty-page hand-made booklet for social studies (a cultural autobiography), and answered eleven short essay questions about what he’d learned in his Literature and Humanities class.

The weekend before the last week of school was grueling. I spent much of it tensely hovering over Noah, who had a tremendous amount of work to do. My bad mood was compounded by discouragement about the number of garden plants we’ve lost to pests this year.  On Friday night something ate one of the two surviving watermelon vines and one of the biggest zinnias and knocked over a big pot of thriving cilantro.

Noah took a break to help me make lasagna for dinner on Saturday and then he came with us to a very fun and relaxing outdoor concert of three local bands, a benefit for the Takoma Foundation, but other than that he was pretty much working from after breakfast until bedtime on Saturday and Sunday.  (I took pity on him and did his vacuuming on Sunday.) Monday night was a slog as well.  But by Tuesday afternoon he just had a couple little assignments– one of which involved gathering parts to take to school for an in-class science project on solar energy — and by 4:30 he was finished for the day and for the year. There was no more homework after that.

Because he had his snap circuits kit out to raid it for parts, he and June ended up playing with it.  They were having so much fun and laughing so hard I started to think summer break might not be a bad idea after all.  I always dread it at least a little, because of the chaos of the weekly schedule changes of their day camps, and the endless bickering, and the difficulty of working when they’re both home.

But every year I think, maybe it will be different, they’ll be more mature, and summer will be easier.  And the thing is, it always is a little easier, just not easy enough.

June’s school year came to a more relaxed close. She finished her last long-term project, a poster about Nicaragua, during the second to last week of school. There was no homework the last week and she came home with her backpack and her arms full of papers and journals and artwork every day for days on end. She also brought home her summer reading and math packets, and pretended to be exasperated by all this summer homework, though Beth and I both think she’s secretly thrilled about it and can’t wait to get started. She’s like that.

On the last Monday of the school year her morning class had an ice cream party and on Wednesday, they all brought in board and card games to play. Thursday the afternoon class had a popcorn-popsicle-games and movie party. There were more parties on Friday.  The whole week was pretty much a non-stop fiesta as far as I can tell.

Noah had some fun, too.  Thursday was an all-day party for the sixth and seventh grade. (Eighth grade promotion was that morning and then the newly minted high schoolers were dismissed for the day.) They got to spend part of the morning outside and there was a students-versus-staff volleyball game and an optional dance (Noah chose to read in the library instead, which is exactly what I would have done.)

On Wednesday, with no homework, the kids ended up playing baseball on the Wii together, something no one around here has done for months, but before playing they got into a vicious argument over the sky chair on the porch. June tearfully claimed he pushed her out of it. Noah indignantly said he didn’t. After the Wii session they went right back to arguing, irritating me to the point that when June asked me what was for dinner, I said if they didn’t stop arguing, I’d have no time to make dinner at all.  Then I said, “I’m going outside to pick some lettuce. Don’t kill each other in my absence.” For a wonder, they didn’t.

So I imagine summer will be like that, a constant alternation between sibling harmony and disharmony, full of laughter and tears, and above all noisy.

Neither of my children is leaving a school this year for the first time in several years so the end of the school year felt a little anti-climactic. There was no bittersweet preschool lantern launch, no leaving one elementary school for another, no elementary school promotion ceremony.  Noah did attend the middle school award ceremony the last week in May because all the members of the band got certificates for their excellent showing at music festivals and competitions this spring. I would have liked to go, but I couldn’t get a sitter, so I stayed home with June and presented her with an award for being the best artist and athlete in the family.  (Noah protested the artist part when he heard about it later, but he didn’t care to contest the athlete title.)

On the last day of school, I went about my normal routine.  I read a little on the porch with a bottled mocha after June left for school, very little actually, just about ten pages of Joyland, because it was a half-day, but I didn’t want to skip my favorite morning ritual entirely.  I did the breakfast dishes and two loads of laundry and picked up toys and sticks in the back yard so Noah could mow it after school, and I exercised.  I finished up an article on a prebiotic supplement, blogged, ate lunch and around 12:40 June came hurtling off the bus and down the sidewalk arriving at the gate before I could.  Noah was only ten minutes or so behind her and summer break was underway.

What did we do? Noah belatedly emailed a gift certificate the classmate he was assigned for a year-end gift exchange and mowed the back yard while June watched television, then both kids packed for their upcoming adventures and June and I made cookies and ran errands while Noah was at Sasha’s annual end-of-the-school year pool party. While June and I were out we stopped at the mulberry tree again. This time June climbed up into its branches, saying over and over, “This is fun!” Finally she joked, “Have I mentioned this is fun?” We capped off the day with celebratory pizza and gelato.

Tomorrow Beth and the kids are driving out to Western Maryland where they will camp overnight.  On Sunday they’ll meet up with YaYa, who’s taking Noah to West Virginia for his annual week-long visit. Before Beth and June will return home on Sunday I’m going to try to give the garden and fence line of the yard a good weeding. I’ll also plant at least some of the cucumber seedlings I’ve been keeping in pots and bringing in at night to save them from the slugs because if I never do it they’ll never really take off and we won’t have cucumbers this summer.  June starts her first day camp (drama) on Monday. I’m hoping for a successful launch into summer for all of us, vines and humans alike.