Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Summer and Summer and Summer

Well, it was worth a try!
Forever, right? Because even though the apples are already dropping from the tree down the street la la la and even though it is already August la la la and Ben held up a crimson maple leaf and said, irate, "What the fuck? No. I mean seriously. What. The. Fuck?" I am just going to pretend that the summer will go on and on. If your kids are back at school already, please just ignore me. Likewise, if they are little still and/or a total pain in your harse-ole and you are counting the seconds until they are.

Birdy's Eebo camped in his own tent, which came inside the big tent when the nights were long and scary. (Note for longtime readers: Strawberry is alive and well! But he doesn't come camping because the raccoons once made off with Birdy's Pink Dolly. Not that she wouldn't be devastated to lose Eebo, of course! #awkward) 
But that's why, instead of offering you useful bagged-lunch ideas or homework helpers, I'm going to pretend that what you want, still and always, is advice about summer! Even though just this very day, I was wading through the Halloween displays at TJ Maxx while Michael, who is maybe in the most denial of all of us, looked for a beach towel, since his had gone missing. "Where are the effing beach towels?" he said, and I had to say, "Um, Honey? I think the store is kind of moving on." And he was pissed.

"I'm thinking we'll call it Neutral Skin and Hair. You dig?" "Yeah, yeah, totally. Should we keep thinking, though? I mean, you don't actually put it in your hair. Or, nah. Forget it. That's perfect."
So I'm here to recommend this sunscreen. Because we're still having fun in the sun, right? It is the best sunscreen we have ever used, at least since switching from lovely silky spray-ons to the gloppy, sticky, white mineral kind, and it's also the cheapest, at $12 for 8 ounces. Plus, it's called Neutral Skin and Hair, so you know they are not wasting a lot of money on, say, frivolous marketing. The Environmental Working Group ranks it pretty high, as do my complaining children, who have now used it for two (one and a half!) summers whilst complaining remarkably little. The fact that it is very oily bothers them less than the fact of the other kinds being very pasty. If you have acne, though, you will hear your pimples slurping long and happily before burping and thanking you.

I wouldn't say that painting those bowls was the best thing that ever happened to me. But only because then you'd think I was lame.
The other thing I want to recommend is these watercolors. I bought them for our summer adventures (and then I bought them again for Ava's birthday), and now I'm starting to think that I've never actually used good watercolors before, even though I thought I was buying this set mostly for its compactness. The hues are as vivid or washed as you want them to be, and the colors themselves are simply thrilling. I brought them camping, and kids and grown-ups alike spent many happy hours hunched over the pages of this wonderful coloring book. The whole series is great (we got this one too), and the pages are sturdy enough to handle the paints. I know grown-ups and coloring books are the hot couple of the month or whatever, but it's true that a coloring book seems to take away people's art-fear factor.

That's Billy Boiler, the camping kettle that Michael and I have been using now for. . . 25 years. Holy fuck.
I also painted the same still life three days in a row, and it was so much fun.

I can barely tell you about camping, about holding Birdy's hand on the way from the bathroom and trying to guess how many times we've walked that path together in the many years since her birth. We guessed 150, but it could be more or less. Her chubby toddler legs must be somewhere deep inside these new long ones, right? 
The view out back.
The view out top. 
The view inside.

Mostly while we're camping what we talk about is how much we love camping. That's how it's always been. I think that if you'd tried to describe to me the bittersweet flavor of growing kids, I wouldn't have been able to understand. It's like trying to explain color or something. The kids are so completely here, but already missing and half gone, and also leaving us. In the tent, I can watch their faces while they're sleeping without, like, being a total freak about it.

Speaking of "learning to let go," this book came in the mail, and I am so excited to read it. It's by the incomparable Jessica Lahey, and, as you know if you've followed her NYT Parent-Teacher Conference blog at all, it is going to be so, so good--challenging and good. There! Those yellow pencils on the cover. That's my one concession to fall.

Happy summer, my dear ones. xo


  1. Thank you. I can't believe summer is almost over. I've got so many things left to do!
    Love your water color still-lifes.

  2. I had no intention of buying coloring books, and yet somehow I ordered two of them (Mania and Patterns) before finishing this post.

    Also, maybe you have already played this game, and perhaps even recommended it, but we are enjoying Hanabi this summer. It didn't LOOK fun to me, but I played it at my brother's house and went home and bought it.

    1. Ah, yes, I see Hanabi has come up in earlier comments sections. Search FIRST, Swistle; THEN comment.

  3. We just returned from vacation, and we are so sad. Sadder than I can remember being since we've had children. I think it's because it was the first year without naps/diapers/baby gates/meltdowns/etc. It was magical. *sigh*

  4. You can get beach towels at Kohl's now for like 6 bucks - the big thick ones - ours are not big and thick. wait a minute.

    we went tent camping all of us (3 kiddos) for the first time this year - for ONE WHOLE NIGHT. We survived. I'm thinking I'm a cabin girl. I also bought a mandala coloring book. they take a looooong time to color those mandalas. you know cuz of all those little patterns and such. it's supposed to make me feel calmer. I'll get back to you. Love to you and yours Catherine

  5. Ah, all the long-timers are chiming in. I love you guys.

  6. I noticed a few leaves changing color on a street near our house yesterday and had close to the exact reaction that Ben did.

    "The kids are so completely here, but already missing and half gone." Love this.

  7. Thank you for writing. I've been obsessively clicking, hoping for a Catherine fix.

  8. On a scale on 1 to 10, how lame are you if you cried three times just reading this post thinking about summer being over, about kids growing up, etc. Asking for a friend. *cough, cough*

    1. You're not lame Laura - you have a beautiful heart. I may have sobbed at one of Catherine's camping posts two years back when she shared about her and Birdy's conversations on their hike to the restrooms. <3

  9. I feel like I'm in that tough in-between stage, with my youngest (twins) starting full-day pre-k (and therefore SCHOOL EVERY YEAR UNTIL THEY MOVE OUT). I'm so excited and ready for quiet, time, peace, independence (sorta), babies. They're gonna go get all corrupted and big at school, and it'll never be the same. (That sums it up, doesn't it? Nothing will ever be the same again.) Change is so hard.

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  11. I remember when... ;) lol

    You posted about being pregnant with dear Birdy and you were in the tent with all the camping smells - that trip, and thought you were so completely brave to tent camp with such a little guy and pregnant!!! (there's not enough exclamation points for that sentence my friend). I feel so proud of my old timer status.
    Turns out - the mandalas... are NOT making me calmer. pity.

  12. Oh, I am so with you. Summer forevah, bitches!! My sister and I were at the art museum yesterday and there was this Bierstadt painting of red-leaved trees with this moody gray sky in the background and a wavy line of blackness across the top, like the curtain about to drop and that is exactly what fall is...waiting for the curtain to drop on life. Also, I just ordered those exact same watercolors from Dick Blick last week and I'm now even more excited for them to come (because Catherine Newman has the exact same set!!!) and I'm really happy I sprang an extra five dollars for the 24-color set. Also, I want to go camping again right away...argh, summer, no, don't leave me!!!

  13. Yay! A camping update! I love following your annual camping trip...maybe because we also go to the same place every year. Everything is the same except the kids' faces in our family picture.

    I love fall - it's my favorite season - but even *I* am sad to see the end of summer this year. Schools are starting early around here (August 11, wtf?) and the rush to the end of summer is both maddening and saddening.

  14. Hey! Great tablecloth! I love to read about your camping. We camped this week too... and school starts on Monday... last baby starting kindergarten... I'm hoping for a good fall melancholy post before too long. I can't decide if I'm going to start drinking during the day, exercising, or just work more.

  15. School doesn't start for us until September, and I'm like, wait, what do you mean, summer's ending? No, she must be mistaken! I'm going to just sit right over here in the nice denial corner for awhile and enjoy my ice cream and tomatoes, thank you very much. Will. not. be. dragged. into. fall! (Oh OK, it's probably better for me to at least start thinking there might, someday, long from now, almost too far to imagine, be a slightly less summery-time out there.)

  16. So many thoughts here....

    I love (!) the paints and the coloring books and wish I'd had them for the whole two weeks we were just in the woods. Filing the idea away for our camping trip over Labor Day....

    Your Birdy's EEBOO is the spitting image of my Avery's "HEE-PO" who she can't sleep without. She loved the pic of EEBOO in her tent and is now full of wistful ideas.....

    In the interest of you recommending wonderful books all the time, I have one to recommend to you and Birdy. It's called Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms and it is SO. GOOD. I just finished it in two days and the main character is going to live on in my mind for a very long time. I love what she learned in the book.

    LASTLY, I'd like to say hello to your gorgeous tablecloth. I myself have my own, in pink hues, lovely as all get out that I found on Amazon thanks to your former recommendation.

    I'm going to try that sunscreen, too.

    And finally, even though there was a LASTLY, I am so in the same boat about summer. I saw a maple leaf that was the same way and railed inwardly. Summer lasts until mid-September and that is that. Summer rules. And we tried to find floatation devices just this last week to no avail, because the school supplies were hogging the shelves. Pisses me off. I'm a teacher, too, so there's that. I will still dive into prepping for the year but I do. Not. Want. Summer. To Leave. So let's hold onto it together for just another moment.......

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  18. Thanks for taking a corkscrew to my heart, wrenching it out, tossing it in the blender of summer happiness, and spitting out a putrid autumn smoothie. Babies, where have you gone???

  19. "The kids are so completely here, but already missing and half gone, and also leaving us. In the tent, I can watch their faces while they're sleeping without, like, being a total freak about it." That is the challenge, isn't it. My oldest, 13, always catches me staring at her and I'm sure it seems a bit freaky but I just can't stop marveling, panicking, gazing wistfully and desperately into their faces in hopes I might find something there I can hold onto, some sort of purchase, that feels permanent and safe and mine forever. Yep. Freak is the right word.