92 Days of Summer

Already yelling at the kids? Try a summer sanity spreadsheet

Already yelling at the kids? Try a summer sanity spreadsheet

Summer sanity checklist
Our summer goal list for 2010, reminding us from the refrigerator how it was going. Photo by Dawn McMullan
Boys snorkeling in Key Largo
Snorkeling in Key Largo. A nurse shark was on the ocean bottom, just below their feet. Check! Photo by Dawn McMullan
Habitat for Humanity in El Salvador
Help build Habitat for Humanity house in El Salvador: check.   Photo by Dawn McMullan
Ernest Hemingway's Key West home
Visit to Ernest Hemingway's Key West home: check. Photo by Dawn McMullan
Abraham Lincoln's home
Visit Abe Lincoln's home: check. Photo by Dawn McMullan
Mount Rushmore
See Mount Rushmore: check. Photo by Jay Ketel
Summer sanity checklist
Boys snorkeling in Key Largo
Habitat for Humanity in El Salvador
Ernest Hemingway's Key West home
Abraham Lincoln's home
Mount Rushmore

Editors note: We are happy to bring you the opening installment of 92 Days of Summer, a new column from East Dallas mom and longtime writer Dawn McMullan, in which she documents her attempts to maintain her sanity with two teen boys at home for the summer.

What the first two weeks of summer feel like:

One hundred molting chickens and large vats of peanut butter have been dropped in my house for a Nicki Minaj video, with the promise that Charlie Sheen and his entourage will be stopping by soon to practice snorting cocaine off his idling Harley-Davidson.

 The rules are simple: a list of 10 things — five that are good for your brain, five merely for the fun of it. I also imagine this will be treasured reading when they have moved out.

What the first two weeks of summer actually are like:

New Teen home since May 24, mounting a respectable-yet-failed campaign against the two-hour-a-day screen rule, frequent requests for his friends to come over/go to the pool/have a sleepover/breakfast/lunch/bake cupcakes/go to the movies/make a quick run to Sonic and reminding me he’d be less bored if he could have more screen time.

His older brother, Driving Teen, mounting a respectable-yet-failed campaign via text about DISD’s schedule and why I should write him a week’s worth of excused absence notes so he could be home to chime in/wrestle with/play football with/argue with his younger brother, doubling the amount of noise in my otherwise peaceful home office.

I’ve done some version of this summer dance since Driving Teen came into this world in June 1997. Working part-time from home is all bonbons and Days of Our Lives until the last bell rings, right?

Then it’s Charlie, Nicki and those damned sticky chickens roosting on my furniture, my laptop, my kitchen table and my otherwise napping dogs while I try to work and continue my usual Mom duties.

(I won’t bore you with those details, but if you are the primary stay-at-home parent, you know. And you’re trying to remember what I was talking about because you’ve already been interrupted four times. This is where ADD meds taken with a glass of wine come in.)

And so it goes until August. 26. That’s 92 days that I have at least one kid out of school this summer. Imagine what that feels like in dog years.

I’m always astonished when people ask me what day school starts. Seriously? Do you also forget your children’s birthdays? What day Christmas and Valentine’s Day fall? 

To tame the chaos just a bit, I came up with the annual summer goal list.

At first, just creating the list would kill half a day. Now, as teens, the eye rolling takes longer than typing it out in iPhone notes. But they do it. When asked this year how much longer this would be required, I said as long as they live here. Or at least summer here. Seems fair enough to me.

The rules are simple: a list of 10 things — five that are good for your brain, five merely for the fun of it. I feel it centers us (maybe just me) a bit and creates a sense of focus and accomplishment during months we, in glorious and frustrating ways, have a difficult time remembering what day it is. I also imagine this will be treasured reading when they have moved out and the clearest memories remain mostly in snapshots.

Some of my more impressive goals:

  • Help build a house in El Salvador.
  • Lose 20 pounds.
  • Organize the laundry room and office (these are on the their third tour on my summer goal list, with high hopes of getting them checked off this summer).
  • Read all my back issues of New Yorker magazine.
  • Do five minutes of daily meditation and yoga several (catch how vague the list can be?) times a week.
  • Read To Kill a Mockingbird.

A few less lofty examples from previous years: Sit on Sue & Angie’s green couch (you just need to know this involves wine and dear friends) and spend five weeks outside Texas (this is an evergreen).

From the kids’ lists:

  • Read 20 books.
  • Place in the top four for at rock climbing nationals.
  • Grow two inches.
  • See sharks while snorkeling in Florida.
  • Go to Ernest Hemingway’s house.
  • Learn all the state capitals.
  • See Mount Rushmore and Abe Lincoln’s birthplace.

For fun:

  • Eat a triple Whopper (this made both boys’ lists three years ago).
  • Learn to yo-yo.
  • Catch up on Bones episodes.
  • Play ping pong every day.
  • Go to Six Flags.
  • Get a UT football player’s autograph.

We are still working on this year’s lists. So far, my goals include watching every episode of the show Girlfriends and finding a beer I like. My husband plans to read and, important, understand The Sound and the Fury. Driving Teen plans to get his driver’s license (he just has a permit now) and New Teen wants to make $200 mowing lawns.

I’m not hardcore about the lists, other than they must be made and put on the refrigerator. I color code them per family member and check goals off as they are met. Some goals are not accomplished, and there is no shame in that. Some goals are put on the list with full knowledge they will be complete (Mount Rushmore was already on our summer road trip itinerary).

At the end of summer, I ceremoniously remove them from the refrigerator on the first day of school and file them away. Charlie, Nicki, the chickens and the boys return to school. I return to my quiet office, dogs napping at my feet. In those first couple of weeks of school, I look back at the lists and the hundreds of pictures we’ve taken during the summer.

And I miss them all. Just a bit.