Plan Not to Plan

Photo: What trickery is this? No tears? No screaming? No misery because the “sand is itchy”?? Oh what a difference a year makes!


It is 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I have just now put the boys down for a nap. I’m also sitting down to my first meal of the day: Two slices of whole-wheat bread with some butter and jelly on it, and a sparkling lemon-flavored water. I got out of bed this morning planning on whipping this house into some sort of presentable shape. That was a stupid thing to do. The universe has been screaming a simple tenant to me since school let out in June: “During the Summer, you need to plan not to plan.”

This is my fourth summer as a mother. The three previous to this one had been pretty unremarkable. We had a routine daily routine, that routine barely changed from season to season, except that we’d traded the jackets for sunscreen, the mittens for baseball caps. Nap time was still nap time, diaper changes and other needs were anticipated, and it seemed like everything got done like clockwork. Never easy, but orderly. Even the disruptions to the routines were known well in advance, accommodated for, maneuvered through. (That includes the insanity of purchasing the house last year and moving in August–can you believe that we’re coming up on that anniversary?)

Fast forward to this summer. This summer, I think, is my first true summer of motherhood.

This summer has been an supreme test of my flexibility: Between the time-suck of potty training, the spontaneity of playdates, the day-of invitations to backyard barbecues (and the tornado warnings that ruin them), the natural and very inconvenient dropping of Ursa Major’s nap, the drop-ins by my mother, the ins and outs of folks we regularly see and the sudden overtures of people we rarely see… My daily prayer is, “Lord, please let me get enough done that the house looks like someone with some sort of class lives here.”

Because my floors are either sticky or crumby or both right at this moment.

And the rugs got vacuumed for the first time in a week this morning.

And laundry is all over the place.

And if I told you about the bathrooms, you’d think me a heathen. I mean, they aren’t like my husband’s old bathroom back in college with the pink stuff growing in it… but, you know, they weren’t clean. Not the way they should have been. Until finally I woke up this morning and just scrubbed the hell out of them instead of drinking coffee like I normally would during that time period.

And that’s really the crux of it: “The thing I would normally be doing during that time period.” Fall, Winter and Spring are built around the beautiful routine of school and all that it requires, and that regiments the days and gives you impetus for efficiency.

But not summer.

Summer seems to be for messy houses and messier cars, dinners planned a few hours in advance (if you remember), invitations over text messages, and stolen moments to blog and think. Summer throws “2 loads of laundry, 3 meals” a day and all of the other chores right out the freaking window. Until, of course, someone decides that they’d like to come to call… with about 30 minutes notice…

It drives me a little crazy. Just a little. But I recognize that it is, ultimately, a good thing.

We did two important unplanned things over the weekend.

First: We bought two identical big-wheels (dubbed “motorcycles” by Ursa Major) and a big plastic outdoor slide/climber-upper-thingy at a yard sale on Saturday. It took them a while to figure out how to move on the bikes (and though Ursa Major can reach the peddles, he hasn’t used them yet. Ursa Minor can’t reach the peddles yet), but now that they can, they are scooting all up and down the driveway for the house with great concentration but also great joy. We only learned about the yard-sale because I’d sent The Husband out to the grocery store for taco sauce on Saturday morning (can’t have breakfast tacos without taco sauce) and he passed by it on the way. “I saw a bunch of kid’s toys. Should I go get some?” One yes and $40 later, I’ve got two very happy toddlers.

The second unplanned thing was we decided to spend a family day at the beach. We’d decided it on Saturday with the plan to go on Sunday and I was doing everything I could to get out of it. After last year’s fiasco of a “vacation” and after a week of battling children in the house, I didn’t want to ruin my absolute love of the beach by having cranky-pants toddlers in the sand again. But The Husband, God bless him, very patiently listened to all of my many excuses and arguments (which I had strategically peppered him with during certain times of the day), woke up on Sunday morning, got the kids dressed, shook me a few times and said, “we’re going to the beach, I’ll meet you at the car.”

We drove for only one hour and landed at Hampton Beach State Park in New Hampshire and it was, to my surprise and delight, a most wonderful beach day. It wasn’t too crowded (more than it would be at the Outer Banks but far less than Ocean City in Maryland), it wasn’t overly hot, people weren’t loud or obnoxious, the boys played beautifully and my husband, again, God bless him, managed the boys when they (rarely) needed anything from us. I didn’t journal. I didn’t write. I didn’t knit. I wrote email and then was instructed to turn off my phone. I just sat with toes in the sand and the sound of waves in my ear. When the boys decided that they were really and actually hungry, we found ourselves at a fantastic seafood shack just up the strip aways and I had some of the best fried clams ever. Probably one of my favorite quintessential New England foods.

And when we got home, all the boys wanted to do was play in the yard on their motorcycles. For two hours (and The Husband dutifully monitored). When they were finally too tired to freaking walk, we gave them some sandwiches for dinner, doused them in water to get the sand off of them, and then put them to bed forty minutes early! Far and away from the usual Sunday of breakfast and CBS Sunday Morning and phone-calls home and some particularly fancy meal that I prepare…

Plan to have no plan. Results may vary, but when it’s good, it’s so good.

Or that’s what the universe is trying to teach me.

We’ll be back to normal in September. My schedule will return and I will feel more comfortable and happy, because ritual and routine are things that I love. But this departure into whimsy can (sometimes) be nice. Nice enough to look forward to doing it at least one more time before summer ends. I told The Husband to surprise me. Just pick a day.

And now I’m sitting here in need of cooking a good meal and turning over the laundry and maybe sneaking in one more chore before sitting down to finally doing that knitting that I wanted to do over the weekend.

And up for another adventure tomorrow.

Happy Monday, ya’ll! Hope this is the start of a great week!

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Happy Monday to you too! Plan to not plan is my mantra for everything now. It seems like just when you make a plan, kids are experts at ruining it. But, I can always find the hidden reason why it was meant to be anyway. Glad you’re enjoying your summer a little more. 🙂

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      Hey girl!! Congrats on your nomination and stuff yesterday! 🙂

      I wish I could apply this philosophy to everything, but that is giving myself over to a level of chaos that I’m not ready for. I think my brain would explode.

      The thing is that this is probably my last summer when a schedule is really needed anyway. Minor will be 3 next year, dropping his nap and having the stamina to get through a whole day without much a break because he’ll have been through a whole year of preschool. This opens up a whole new world of hurt, too, because he’ll have his own set of classmates and friends. In other words, if I think it’s bad now, I ain’t seen nothin’ yet!!

      1. Exactly. Sorry I’ve been MIA. Will be better. 🙂

  2. I found myself today having a fleeting thought: “I am looking forward to winter when things will calm down a bit.” But I snapped out of it pretty quickly!
    Summer is hectic, but in a calm kind of way. It’s unplanned, but laid-back because you can wear flip-flops and cut-off shorts to the unplanned events.
    I feel ya on the crumbs on the floor-I have a sneaky feeling they are always in my house and I just notice them more during the summer because I am barefoot.
    I’m glad you are enjoying your summer and had a great day at the beach!

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      I am totally down with that sentiment. I don’t want or need winter, but I’d love a little school time. We need that year-round school model where they are on for 2 months and then off for 2/3 weeks or however it goes. You know?? That’s probably exhausting for its own set of reasons…

      For me, the floors seem extra dirty because the boys are tracking more into the house! We leave the shoes at the door, but the dirt is in their hair, on their hands, on their legs, in their shirts and pants… lord. They throw the stuff all over the place outside and the only way I’d be able to keep it off of them is to literally hose them down outside!!

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