Beauty in the Mess,  Ezra,  Family,  Little Brother

This is how we survived the summer

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At the beginning of the summer, I wrote a blog post about Summer Survival. In that post, I talked about the pull of the romanticized notion of letting kids be bored during the summer – the idyllic 1970s summer that people these days seem so fond of trying to recreate.

I also talked about how reality plays out for special needs families, how there is value in routine, how not all kids are the same – and how scared I was about how WE were going to survive the summer.

As we began the summer, I was very hopeful that Ezra would be accepted into summer day-treatment behavioral therapy services. This would have put him in programming for six hours a day for the entire summer. Unfortunately, those services were denied.

We tried a local summer camp program at a nearby park. I was really hopeful that Ezra would do well, as it was a group of no-more-than 25 4-7 year olds. Alas, he lasted two days in the program.

Thus we were left with figuring things out on our own, with only two weeks of scheduled programming at the Moravian preschool summer camp he attended last summer. Because their calendar overlapped with the school district as well as our beach vacation, two weeks was all he could attend.

I immediately took to hashtagging my Instagram posts #thisishowwesurvivethesummer. I was secretly hopeful that the hashtag would take off. It didn’t. There are 6 posts with the hashtag on Instagram, and they are all mine.

{Confession: this title and hashtag is shamelessly stolen from my fellow blogger Addie Zierman. Her post, This is How We Survive The Winter from 2015 has stuck with me all this time. If you’ve ever felt guilty for feeling like a certain season of your life is HARD when there are so many worse problems in the world, you need to read this post. Yes, even in September.}

Back to our summer. Honestly, we had a FABULOUS summer. SO MUCH better than I expected or hoped it would be. When I started the summer I was TERRIFIED. The last two summers have been hard. They have wrecked me. They have made me have days when I wanted to quit being a mom.

This summer was so incredibly different. I owe it to several things.

First – MEDICATION. Putting my son on ADHD meds and myself on Zoloft has made a life-changing difference for both of us individually, as well as for our relationship. The last two summers there was a lot of yelling. Screaming. From both of us. This summer, yes, Ezra had his meltdowns. But I can remember only two occasions where I really yelled at him.  Frustration? You bet. Raised or firm voice? Here and there. But kid-driving-me-insane-induced RAGE? Not so much.

Yes, I still had MOMENTS when I wanted to hide under the covers. I had to put myself in time out a time or two. But those were MOMENTS. Not days or weeks or THE ENTIRE FREAKING SUMMER. Just moments.

So, with short-haired little men, this is how we survived the summer…

short haircuts

Summer Survival at Home

Our summer days began between 5:30 – 6:30 A.M. when one or the other of my boys would wake up. This boy was normally followed by the other boy waking shortly thereafter. They were nothing if not consistent early birds.

After six years of early mornings, my body has FINALLY adjusted to the insanity that is o-dark-hundred. Kinda.

I would fumble around making coffee, pouring Honey Nut Cheerios and milk, and administering Ezra’s meds. Then I would go into the dark living room, lie on the couch, drink coffee, and check Facebook and email while trying not to feel guilty that Ezra was (or both the boys were) sitting at the table alone. Every morning.

cheerios every morning


Between 6:15 and 6:30, Russ would join us and I would lie on the couch and wish that everyone would just go away get up and make his sandwich for work. I would also turn on Octonauts. Because, apparently, Octonauts is the only show we can watch in the summer.


Octonauts was sometimes-but-not-always accompanied by cuddles. Aren’t these two simply the cutest?


Another fixture to our summer was Baby Jail. And yes, that’s what we call it. Baby Jail is our 6-Panel North States Superyardd with 2 panels added from another to double its size. It takes up most of the living room. I don’t mind in the least. Little Brother lives in it, and Daddy and Ezra visit him in jail sometimes too.

baby jail

baby jail daddy

The rest of the second Superyard is now down in the basement to keep Little Brother from climbing our steep stairs. You can tell it is working fabulously. We are currently taking bets as to how long it will take our little climber to scale over it and realize he can get to the stairs. The “door” latch is a PAIN. So mostly I just go over it like a Olympian goes over hurdles. (Except way less gracefully and way more embarrassingly.) Russ just gets mad at it and bangs it until it opens. Ezra follows Little Brother’s lead and goes the route of the Hot Wheels table. BABY SAFETY FOR THE WIN! um…kind of. I think.

basement safety

I was Supermom this summer because Ezra did LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of homeschool preschool. And by LOTS I mean I think it happened maybe a half dozen times this summer.


Legos and story CDs were our saving grace this summer. As for story CDs, if you have Star Wars fans in your family, you NEED these CDs (The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy; Beware the Power of the Dark Side!; and So You Want to be a Jedi?). The first time I put in A New Hope for Ezra, he stayed in the basement for FIVE HOURS playing Legos!!!!

This boy has TAKEN OFF in his love of Legos. The interesting thing about Ezra and Legos is that he HAS TO FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS. Which is highly ironic considering that The Lego Movie is our family’s favorite movie ever, and we have watched it about 50 times.


I wouldn’t mind so much, except when he calls me downstairs every two minutes to help him find THE ONE PIECE HE NEEDS. Which really defeats the whole purpose of magical blocks that make boys leave their momma’s alone Legos. So I came up with a genius solution, thanks to this bin and this bin I found on Amazon.


Believe it or not, the Legos have STAYED ORGANIZED for the entire summer. I still get called down to the basement to find pieces, but not quite as frequently, so it’s a win-win. We have also mostly-trained Ezra to keep the Legos on the table so that Little Brother doesn’t choke on them.

legos 2

Second to Legos were outside play. And by second I mean it happened once in a while because this summer was tied for the second hottest summer in Winston Salem history. 90-degree temperatures were the norm.


We invested in a cheap slide and very cheap baby pool. Rookie Moms, hear this: inflatable pools stink. They don’t last a week, let alone a whole summer. But these cheap plastic ones you can get for $9.99 are totally golden. No holes, no links, WAY easier to dump after every filling, and because they are small, they don’t use up quite as much water.


truck in pool

Another favorite summer pastime of ours was BATH TIME. I think that the boys averaged 1.8098234 baths per day this summer…each. It’s not that I’m a clean freak (although stinky boy bums are not on the top of my list of favorite things). It’s that my boys love bathtime, and it’s something that they can do indoors, where it’s cool, and they entertain each other and leave me alone. (Now for you safety police, I’m checking on them every .2 seconds…especially when it gets quiet.)

baths baths baths

baths baths baths 2

Another reason we love baths so much is that this summer, a BIG THING happened. Ezra decided he was finally DONE with pullups. Just done. He is doing an AMAZING job of staying dry overnight, but still wets maybe twice a week. When this happens, he goes straight into the shower or tub, even if it’s 6AM. So it’s baths baths baths for my boys. Baths together, baths apart, baths every day. We love baths. (Our water bill, not so much.)

Aside from transitioning out of pullups, Ezra is demonstrating maturity in other areas. Like he randomly decided he was done with sippy cups, kiddy bowls, and little boy silverware.

big boy silverware

He’s also helping out with household chores, like cleaning the toilets and unloading the dishwasher.


In August, we watched a lot of Olympics. Both of the boys were a fan, although we mostly watched gymnastics, because that’s my thing.

summer camp project



A final word about summer and boredom. In my post at the beginning of summer, I gave some quotes from other blog posts about the magic of summer boredom:

“After all, our kids need to be bored. It is the lost art of childhood.”My Kids WILL Be Bored This Summer

“I have fed the entitlement beast . . . Our children need to be bored. They don’t need a plan for entertainment. . . They can create their own. And that’s when summer gets magical.” – Dear Children: Let Me Explain This Thing Called Summer

This is my final word on the subject of summer boredom: I CALL BULLCRAP.



When I asked Ezra WHY he drew Xs all over every inch of the basement while listening to a story tape, he simply said, “I wanted to be a guy who draws Xs on stuff.”

I rest my case. 

Summer Survival Out and About

Ezra’s two weeks at summer camp fell smack dab in the middle of July. He was gone from 9-1 which was a nice reprieve for Mommy. Once again the staff took great care of him. They all commented what a difference they could see in him from last summer to this one in maturity. They were so great at managing his more difficult behaviors with compassion and love.


For the rest of the summer, we utilized our “free” two hours of childcare at the YMCA several times a week. Ezra had a few rough days, but for the most part, he succeeded in maintaining positive behavior in childcare. Little Brother also enjoys playing. At our Y, both childcare rooms have windows that allow parents to look in on their kids, which I absolutely LOVE.


ymca batman baby

I avoided running errands with both boys whenever I could, but the few times we had to go out, we managed well enough. Again, I could really see the combination of therapy, medication, and maturity really showing up on outings. We even did story time at the library once and a few other random trips there for story CDs and books. MOST of the time, both boys did great!


We also managed to make it to play at both Barnes and Noble and the mall a few times. Again, almost always without incident! I think that Ezra having a playmate really helps the situation!

barnes and noble


We only braved the heat to go to the park a handful of times. It was just wayyyyy too hot for the most part.



park time august

We also made it to the pool a few times.


At the beginning of the summer I decided that EVERY FRIDAY would be DAY TRIP FRIDAY. Then immediately I realized that was a horrible idea. So I made it every other Friday, and put a half-dozen day trips on the calendar.

We ended up taking one. Because we are SUPER SUCCESSFUL like that. We went to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC and met my friend and fellow blogger, Michelle, and her three beautiful superheroes as well as her SUMMER SUPERHERO for the day. We had a fabulous time!

{If you are a reader who has any interest in motherhood, special needs, adoption, international adoption, special needs adoption, or military life, please go check out her blog and like her Facebook page.}

museum of life and science

There is no way to survive a hot summer without ice cream. We consumed more ice cream this summer than I think was legal. There’s a reason I gained about 20 pounds this summer. I don’t know, though…for cute faces like this, it might have been worth it.

ice cream dates

ice cream 2


Ezra made several trips to Grandma’s house, which – of course – usually involved a trip to the pool and more ice cream. It also involved Mommy getting a little break here and there.


Over the course of the summer, on the weekends, we took several hiking trips to different North Carolina State Parks. Here we are at South Mountain.

hiking 1Summer Survival on Vacation

We took two vacations this summer. I blogged about our beach vacation a few months ago, so please check out that post if you haven’t had a chance yet.

The second vacation we took to Virginia on the next-to-last weekend of summer. We stayed at Boulder Crest Military and Veteran’s Wellness Retreat which offers quality accommodations to disabled veterans at no cost. Russ and I stayed there in 2014 on a getaway, but it was so sweet to bring our babies back.

vacation virginia

Summer survival at Boulder Crest was much the same as it was at home: Legos and story CDs, Octonauts, hiking, pool time, lots of ice cream, and – of course – baths!

pool time virginia

hiking virginia 2

hiking virginia 1

(Raven’s Rock – we hiked ALL THE WAY to West Virginia and back!)

vacation ice cream

One of the sweetest parts of vacation was watching Ezra give Little Brother quite the briefing on Rescue Bots, including all of their names and functions. Little Brother was a captive audience!

vacation baths

And THAT is how we survived the summer! Ezra started KINDERGARTEN this past Tuesday! He is in a “social/behavioral support” class of Kindergarteners through 2nd graders. (Currently it’s two Ks and three 2nd-graders – all boys!) His teachers are very sweet and seem to really like Ezra. I think he will do incredibly well this year!

first day of kindergarten

first day of kindergarten 2

That wraps up our summer post. Little Brother and Ezra turn ONE and SIX in the next week. We are having a very big Star Wars Family Celebration this weekend, so stay tuned for a post on that! Thanks for reading!

*DISCLAIMER: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, because I am an Amazon Prime Addict. I need an intervention. STAT.

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