Things Fall Apart

So Noah’s been out of school for two weeks and June for three. You might think I was into the swing of our summer schedule by now. You’d be wrong.

The reason is simple: we have no summer schedule. Every week is different. First there was the week Noah was still in school and June was attending a half-day camp at her preschool. I liked that week. There was a lot of peace and quiet. I read a lot and got some work done, too.

Next there was the week Noah was at YaYa’s house and June had no camp. I scheduled play dates with the Cottontail Rabbit and the Ghost Crab, thinking June would be lonely and wanting playmates. She did miss Noah, especially at first. Early in the week, she drew a picture of their bunk bed with both bunks occupied and then one of a “princess riding away on her unicorn while her brother, the prince, waves goodbye.” Notice how she turned it around there? She also dug through all the books in her bookshelf looking for Kimbo’s Marble, a book about a princess whose brother is abducted by a troll and who has to rescue him.

But eventually, June started to take for granted having undivided maternal attention (of one mother during the days and, even better, two in the evenings). She got to pick the cinematic entertainment. I took her to the video store twice while Noah was gone. She selected Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue (not as bad as I thought it would be) and Snow White, which she watched in its entirety without running out of the room whenever the witch came onscreen. She was proud of this accomplishment. By the time Noah returned, she’d had so much fun she was actually kind of lukewarm about seeing him again. (Noah enjoyed his first-ever week away from home, too. At one point he emailed Beth that he was “ : ) x infinity”)

I was expecting that this past week would be the first one of both kids home all day, but on Sunday (the day after Noah returned from West Virginia) we found out he got into Tinkering camp at the Purple School off the waitlist. All the camps at June’s preschool this summer are tinkering camps. The kids (ages three to five or four to ten depending on the week) brainstorm a construction project, draw plans and then build it. June’s week they made a “Water-Ball Track,” a ramp for balls and water. This week they made a squirrel bridge that was strung between two trees. Noah’s been to a Purple School camp every year since he was five, and he loves them so we were glad when he got in. It also allowed me to have a few hours every day when the children were not at each other’s throats. Re-entry has not been pretty.

So all this week June and I were on our own from 9:30 when we dropped Noah off at camp until 2:00 when he came home (he walked home by himself). We went to the 7-11 for ice cream after lunch one day, to the library for Spanish Circle Time, on a walk along Sligo Creek trail, and we visited two playgrounds. Wednesday was particularly busy. After leaving Noah at camp (five minutes late because he forgot his backpack with his lunch and had to run back to get it once we were several blocks away from home) June and I dropped some clothes in a donation bin, went to the rec center to register June for two of Becky’s drop-in summer music classes and to the library to drop off books. We got to the Co-op just in time to buy whole-wheat tortillas and get settled in for the 10:30 Story Time they have in the basement on Wednesdays.

As June sipped her juice box (snacks are provided), I leaned back in my chair and congratulated myself on a very organized and productive hour. The storyteller commented that not many people had come. One of the nannies said people were probably in downtown Silver Spring. They have children’s activities down by the fountain on summer Wednesday mornings, and also, I remembered with a sinking feeling, $1 second-run kids’ movies. I’d meant to check the film series schedule before I signed June up for music classes. So much for being organized.

That afternoon Elias came over. Setting up that play date was complicated because I couldn’t take Noah over to Elias’s house during June’s nap per the original invitation so Elias’s mom agreed to bring him to us instead.

As the boys were playing a spirited second round of Sleeping Queens ( on the porch and June was off playing quietly somewhere, I got a chance to go online and check the film schedule. I was surprised to find that instead of the usual even split between G and PG fare, the films were almost all PG this year (eleven out of fourteen!) and even the three G-rated films were what I’d consider older Gs, mainly because of complex plots. The only one not showing at a time June was at day camp or during our beach week was Tale of Despereaux. Noah loved this book but he was older than five when we read it and the reviews of the film say it’s hard to follow for a kids’ movie. So, I don’t think we’ll be going to the $1 movies this year. I was mostly disappointed, but also a little relieved since it meant I wouldn’t have to try to reschedule the music classes.

That evening as we were all sitting out on the porch, Beth and I were talking about Noah’s drum lesson the next day. He’d asked if he could have lessons this summer to keep in practice so Beth found him a teacher pretty close to our house. His next lesson was Thursday, the following day. When Beth reminded me of the time, 4:00-4:30, I dropped my forehead into my hands, remembering that June had a play date with a boy she met at tinkering camp (next year’s Eastern Fence Lizard) that ended at 4:30. I could not pick them both up from different places at the same time.

Summer does this to me every year. The lack of a set schedule makes it feel like possible events and activities are buzzing all around my head, like mosquitoes I can hear but not see so I am constantly loosing track of things. And just when I think I’ve got the puzzle pieces of any week put together, something upends the table and they are scattered all over the floor.

Even something as simple as picking one weekend out of the whole summer for my mother and stepfather to take the kids for a weekend and visit Sesame Place ( with them is fraught. It took me forever to get back to them about what weekend we wanted to do it because every single possibility had drawbacks. The one we choose, in late July, means June will miss a t-ball game and the Painted Turtle’s birthday party. I felt bad about that because it’s the second party she’s had to miss this summer. But it was the best we could do. Every other weekend had problems, too. The upsides of this weekend are that my moms prefers it, and Noah has no camp the week before and June has only a half-day camp, so we can leave early Friday afternoon, and we are able to squeeze in a visit to my high school friend Pam, who is leaving for the UK where she and her family usually live the following weekend after a sabbatical year in the U.S.

So I went to work putting the pieces of Thursday afternoon back together. I emailed the Lizard’s mother to see if we could shift the time of pickup back to five. It ended up working out fine. Between dropping June off, getting Noah to his lesson, going back for June and getting home the half-hour lesson turned into a three-hour outing. But it was a fun three hours that included a lot of time reading Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone to Noah at various bus stops and at Capital Cheesecake while he ate a key lime mini-cheesecake and I sipped an iced chai. And later we hung out a fountain on the campus of a nearby college campus with the Lizard, his mom and baby sister before heading home.

Also, Noah seemed to hit it off with his drum instructor, who predicted that by the time Noah went back to school his band teacher would be “amazed” at his progress. The only hitch was that I was apparently supposed to pay him at this meeting. Beth had set up the lesson and she and I had miscommunicated about that so I didn’t have a checkbook with me.

Just as we were leaving for the Lizard’s house I found a jury summons in the mailbox for the last week in July, a week neither of the children has camp. I started calculating the babysitting costs for June, if Beth could take Noah to work with her that day. It wasn’t going to be cheap, I concluded, but I didn’t have time to think about it. In the hustle of getting everyone where they needed to be, I forgot about it but the summons was still there when we got home.

That evening while the kids were watching an Inspector Gadget ( episode on the computer, Beth and I had one of those rapid-fire, multi-topic discussions you are probably familiar with if you have both a spouse and kids. In ten minutes or so we covered home repairs, where we should go when Mom and Jim take the kids, and jury duty. Beth said she’d take the day off work, thus simplifying both my childcare arrangements and my travel plans to the county courthouse, which is on the opposite end of the horseshoe that is the Red Line. She also offered to drop by the drum teacher’s house the next morning with a check.

So things fall apart, but then they knit together again, whether through skipping what must be skipped or through the accommodations of other moms and a supportive partner. The center always holds. But I must say I’m glad that it’s finally July. Only fifty-nine days left until kindergarten and fifth grade.