After keeping the kids out so late last night I had no plans of going anywhere today. I awoke early this morning and immediately my brain kicked into party planning mode. My oldest son had asked to have a birthday party with his friend in the summer so we could have all his friends over to swim (even though his birthday is not in the summer). I agreed and this weekend is the weekend. I thought I was all set for the dozen or so kids we'd have until I started thinking. My list was a mile long by the time the boys woke up. Luckily, they all slept nice and late this morning. Unfortunately, it still didn't seem to be enough. They were up for less than 20 minutes when the bickering and fighting started. It continued on and on for the next hour or so while I was cleaning house and trying to figure out how to get three very tired, cranky, little boys to cooperate with one another and myself long enough to get some things done. I finally settled on bribery; though I call it rewarding (since that just sounds better!). I told the boys if they could all eat breakfast, get dressed and behave long enough for me to go to the store and get what I needed for Ian's party I would get them lunch at McDonald's and allow them to decide how to spend the rest of their day-- swimming in the lake, playing at the park, watching/playing screens. I wouldn't argue or care as long as they didn't fight. They all eagerly jumped at the chance and started getting ready.
Their behavior was still pretty touch and go for a while. They all fought a bit here and there while getting dressed but one of them would always remind the others to behave. We packed Ian's skateboard, helmet and a bag of bathing suits and towels for the park; in case they wanted to go there after shopping and decided to head to the library first. Some new books on CD came in and I thought that would help pass the time a bit more peacefully in the car. The ride to the library was a bit tough but you could have heard a pin drop in the car once the book started playing. We were listening to a compilation of a bunch of Judy Blume books with The Pain and The Great One. The stories were hilarious and are about and brother and sister and their lives complete with angst over friends, sibling rivalry, and a slightly dysfunctional family.
The two younger boys needed quite a few reminders in the first store but Ian was remarkably helpful. He even helped load up the car once we got outside. Some day I'm struck by how grown- up and helpful he's become. I enlisted everyone's help in the second store. We stopped at the craft store (for my own personal fun not for the party) and I asked the boys to help me pick out sticker embellishments for all my scrapbooking pages. They loved this and found me some great ones too! While there I picked out a large bag of embroidery floss and promised the boys we'd tackle learning how to make friendship bracelets next week.
We stopped at McDonald's like I promised and we all decided to take our lunch with us to the park. It was a beautiful day and the park was quite crowded. I was a bit upset with myself that I had forgotten my camera at home, but honestly I think that helps me stay in the moment a bit more sometimes. I'm always looking through the lens of my camera and sometimes that make me feel more apart of what they're doing than actively playing with them. After eating Evan ran off to try flying on his belly using the swings, practicing moving across a suspension bridge while balancing himself without using any hands, and climbing, sliding and playing. Ian used the swings, tried out the monkey bars and then asked me to get his skateboard and helmet so he could try getting the hang of it. Alec spent the entire time on the monkey bars. There was also some hanging handles that worked similar to monkey bars but were just a bit more challenging. Alec loved this added challenge and refused to give up until he made it all the way across. Unfortunately, he ended up with a blister on his hand and never did make it to the other side. By that time they were all getting bored, hot and tired so they agreed to leave.
As we were walking to the car I was thinking that what had started out as a potentially bad day had turned out really well. The boys were being sweet and all getting along. We were finding the time to hang out and have fun together. It was wonderful.
We listened to some more stories in the car on the way home and once home all the boys played nicely for quite a while. Ian and Evan worked on building boats and jet skis with their Lego's while I unloaded the car and got everything put away. Alec and Evan headed out to play and get ready to go swimming. Ian soon joined them and when I got outside they swam and played for a bit. Alec decided it was to cold and headed in to play Wii. It was just one of those long, lazy summer days that seemed to stretch on endlessly (but in a good way!). I was hopeful that the rest of our day would go as smoothly, but realized that exhaustion might get the best of them before bedtime. I was prepared to have to send them to bed early but was hopeful we'd have a pleasant afternoon.
I spent most of the afternoon planning our day tomorrow. I have quite a lot I still need to get done for the party on Saturday, but I learned this morning (or realized) that tomorrow is the winter solstice. Alec has been asking me for at least a month when the solstice actually is and has been telling everyone all about the summer and winter solstice. He learned these terms from the Magic Tree House books and he's intrigued with the idea that some people celebrate these occasions. He was clapping his hands this morning when I told him I discovered it was tomorrow so I wanted to plan something extra special and fun to mark this momentous occasion. The official start of summer and the longest day of the year require lots of summer fun!