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Confessions from the Edge of Dog Days

By Brooke Benton

I have a hankering for Red Mango with a granola mix in. All the time. The kids go back and forth from filthy to clean but only because they’re wet from the garden hose, which I’m not socially, morally or eco-ly conscious enough to say no to. Boxes of popsicles are dusted off as soon as they’re opened. Afternoons are frittered away on stacks of library books. Okay, I’m lying: Spongebob. We’ve broken four super soaker squirt guns and now we’re on to water balloons whose plastic fragments cling to my windows and stucco. We know the lifeguards’ names at the pool. Worse, they know ours! And they yell them out loud while my kids prove their learned summer bravery: the youngest hand over hand on the wall to make it to the deep end, the older two ignoring my cries for them to stop running, to watch where they jump, to give the noodle back to the baby they just stole it from. I think nothing of spending $14 on gelato just to make it from evening to bedtime without locking my kids in the backyard and pulling my hair out while I zone out staring at the computer.

We’ve reached it, we’re here: the dog days.

The tent has been up in the backyard for too long! The laundry is stockpiling itself! Repeatedly! There are huge bits of Doritos on my deck, the extra large Costco-sized bag decimated long ago while the crumbs wilt in their own grease. My flowers have died from my lack of watering. (The kids are hogging the hose.) And when I do finally water, I watch it as it percolates down through the bone dry soil and lament my carelessness while making silent promises to not buy begonias next spring. I will forget, allured by their beauty, my grand visions of not losing all will to do anything productive mid-summer.

I just spent too much money on craft supplies for sweltering mid-day hours! I just spent too much money on books from Barnes and Noble! I just spent too much money on groceries we will never eat! My kids have had popcorn for dinner not once, not twice, but thrice in a week’s time. We’ve forgotten what bedtime is and we are like monks now—rising with the sun, going to sleep with it too. (That is the only way we are monk-ish. Every other way we are not. Except for maybe the bathing. Do monks bathe? Because, well… doesn’t chlorine kill germs?)

I have nightmares about school starting. I schedule and miss appointments with abandon. Hair, dentist, visiting teaching—miss, miss, miss. I just barely collected then trashed the burnt up firework cylinders from the 4th. I wear my swimsuit all day. (But I think I’m getting a rash, so I’m repenting and putting my garments back on. Today. Or once I find all of them in the towers of stockpiled laundry.)

Really, I love it like this. When the supernal force of my day is like ocean’s tidal shift—and I just float with it, in and out, doing whatever, whenever. I can’t help it. Really. It must be a July thing. But my husband grows tired of it, booking plane tickets for business travel faster than I can say, “Can we go with you and hang at the hotel pool?” and only kisses me when I’m wearing an apron, loading the dishwasher. Which, I must say, is quite often during these days of endless drinks and “science” experiments and no real meal times.

I’m sweaty. I’m hot and tired. I feel the physical toils of mothering down in my bones and across my back, and I night I sleep and sleep the deep slumber of a mother hard-worked. I picture Emma Smith, from the recent movie about her, as she digs in the garden and her hair falls in sweaty strings around her face and she explains the law of the harvest, her friend responding with how you reap what you sow. Over here we don’t have a pumpkin the size of our first-born or even a fast growing zucchini, but we do have lots of tomatoes revealing themselves on the vine. They are still hard, green, pellet-sized things with nothing more than a hope to hang on and a hope for tomorrow, but my son is so excited over the prospect of them that they are much on my mind.

And that’s got to mean something, right? Because even in the midst of the dog days, when I feel at my least productive and run haggard by having fun (imagine the thought!) I still always think: they are such good kids. And I just hope and hope that, regardless of my lacking, we will get there. I hope we reach the harvest round and full of what we’re supposed to be.

So tell me, my dearies… oh what do you do in the summertime?

Or more importantly, what do you not do so that you can be with your kids?

About Brooke Benton

(Blog Team) is attempting inner om with this writing stuff. Proud to claim four loud children, a patient husband and a fat black cat as family, she feels blessed to be their mommy-- their giver of kisses and baker of cookies. She is ever seeking a good novel and wishing for the sand between her toes, palm trees, the ocean.

18 thoughts on “Confessions from the Edge of Dog Days”

  1. We've been in the pool every day for 3 weeks straight. My kids hair is so brittle it might break off at any moment. But do I really have to make everyone shower after getting out of the water? Tell me true, cuz' it's just so much work.

    We had pancakes for dinner last night. I haven't touched the washing machine in 6 days. Jamba Juice for dinner is perfectly acceptable, too, fyi.

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  2. My kid and I hang out in the pool a lot. He really has no choice on what we do since I'm not quite finished baking him yet. But I like thinking of me as a "we". We go to the pool, we go to sonic, we go to the library, we do some laundry, we water the plants, we go for walks, sometimes we go to the gym.

    It's been a great summer…

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  3. Yesterday I had not just my own five children but 6 EXTRAS! All hoping for something fun to do. 2 baked a cake, 2 played x-box, 2 ran around bugging everyone else and dumping toys, 5 played in hose, designed a doll house, and made a stack of cards requiring way too much cut paper particles and ink for my sanity. That was after swimming lessons and a teenage meltdown. I was so busy trying to contain bodies that I didn't get any laundry done, didn't work on my business and re-heated dinner from earlier in the week. However, I did "surf" (the internet) read a few chapters of a book and decided to embrace summer. My laundry room is even more resentful than usual today.

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  4. Brooke. I love this post. You are my people. I was there (except for the part about the bathing suit) just a few short years ago.

    Now I'm working and hoping my school-teacher husband has at least a rough idea where the kids might be when I get home. (Usually they are in their swimsuits at my friend's house.) My oldest two are always at work. They grow into the responsibilities of young adulthood much too soon and so I don't regret the dog days we spent together. I regret my younger two don't get to spend dog days with me now, but we have just started morning breakfasts out on the deck and I spent almost every night of the last 10 weeks at somebody's ball game or two.

    My favorite thing about summer is tossing the schedule (except for the ball game schedule) out the window and not giving it a second thought.

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  5. My living room is a "tent city" with 3 child-sized tents filled to the brim with books, goldfish crackers and tons of pillows and blankets. We are all peeling a little despite constant applications of sunscreen. There are little nubby bits of leftover water balloons sprinkled around my backyard. Ice-Pop wrappers are literally spilling out of the trash can I keep trying to squeeze "one more thing" into. My towels are constantly damp from swimming or sprinklers or slurpy watermelon clean-up. Oh, and there are still little grainy bits of sand here and there from our beach vacation. Yep, add that to your run-down and that pretty much sums up our summer so far!

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  6. Ooooh…THIS is summer. I can define our days by what we did in the water: Monday and Tuesday we swam in a friend's pool, Wednesday we ran through the sprinklers with the rest of the ward's kids, Thursday we ate goldfish crackers at the splash pool, and today was beach day.

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  7. Again, wow! This post is just right on. How can there be so many baskets of laundry in my bedroom (my husband said he will pay anything to make it stop). And my house! It hasn't been this dirty in months (okay, maybe). But every morning we go swimming at a friend's parent's pool to take lessons. Then in the afternoons we go to our lake beach. And watch movies. And eat popcorn. And I say we will go to the library tomorrow to get some books. But the baby is teething and I'm tired.

    Ahh, summer.

    Also, about the law of the harvest. I am a little worried about myself. Someone give me hope for me. I plant, I begin to water, I lose interest, I taste a few things, then they become overgrown and there they grow all over the place, unharvested. How am I ever going to learn the law of the harvest when I can't stay focused on anything long enough!!! I am one of those jackie of all trades, master of none types. I paint, write, sew, do yoga, try to be a good mom (ugh), remodel, play the cello, but never stay on one thing long enough to really get there. Tell me there's hope!

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  8. I hope I didn't make it sound like I don't love being a mom with my ugh. I just feel so inadequate at times. Because of this very problem of not being able to stay focused on the harvest.

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  9. Brooke, maybe if you stood on your pile of laundry, and I stood on my pile of laundry we would be able to see each other from across the valley . . .

    This post was another example of your amazing writing. Thank goodness for the Dog Days that are giving you time to sit down and capture it all.

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  10. I don't know if you realized how moving this would be when you wrote it. Maybe you did. I am new to this whole mommy thing and for us it didn't happen the traditional way. This post is exactly what I imagined being a mommy would be like. I don't know if that's good or bad, but either way. The last line 'what do you not do so you can be with your kids?' really says a lot. Thank you for your thoughtful post.

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  11. sage: i feel inadequate, too. but motherhood is great. i agree.

    cjane: climb atop. i'll be waiting with a big wave.

    mayor: welcome to crazy town! i live there too!

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  12. My summer has felt like a combination of your post and Justine's Hmmmmm post. I am trying to savor the time with my kids and give them (and us) fun time, but I also have been in a sort of survival mode, having one of the most difficult months I can remember for a while. Laundry is piled up, but not because we have been swimming every day; it's because I've personally been nearly drowning every day.

    I am coming to believe that, at least for me, the harvest sometimes comes not as I am able to tangibly see or even do what I feel (or even believe) is ideal, but as I simply continue to press forward (read: I don't quit even if I sometimes feel like I want to), doing my best to live my best, whatever that is at the moment. I learn, little by little, by experience, what is really important and what I can let go (ah, what a process for me, that whole good, better, best thing). It's often only in retrospect that I can see that I have learned, that I and my relationships have grown, that maybe I'm a little better at the whole process (until something new is thrown into the mix, which usually happens) and, most importantly, that grace (the reason we all have hope) has been operative in my life. And usually, that growth and progress and grace for me is more measurable after years, not days or weeks.

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  13. add not having a husband (read: responsible adult) around all summer and these dog days have become decadent. stella will remember this as the summer we let the house go feral and ate popsicles after every meal. thanks for this tribute to the dog days, brooke. i raise my frosty glass of koolaid in a toast.

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  14. oh. . .light bulb goes on. thankyou! so it's perfectly ok to live like this? Good, then I'll stop trying to fight it and try enjoying it more!

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