Due to some glitch in the time/space continuum (or maybe just because time no longer makes sense in the age of COVID), we’ve arrived at the last Friday of August . . . which means it’s time to reflect on what I learned this summer. Full confession here: when I looked at my calendar and saw that I’d slated this post topic for today, I immediately spiraled into a funk that I couldn’t quite shake. My mind can’t compute that we’ve come to the end of a summer that never really began. The minimal plans I’d made for this summer didn’t pan out, and here we go into a fall that promises even less predictability.

My disproportionate reaction to this end-of-summer realization was what prompted me to check in with myself, and I was able to see that the summer of 2020 wasn’t a complete waste. We made some great family memories, and despite a perpetual feeling of being mentally and emotionally stuck, I continued to learn. Much of what I came to know about myself this summer was shared in Monday’s post; today, I’m looking back at a few of the more lighthearted (or, at least, slightly less personal) things I learned this summer.

1. There is a YouTube app!

I stumbled upon the app a month ago and now see that I am embarrassingly behind the times with this realization. (Even my mom—a notorious luddite— admitted she’s had the app for some time.) I don’t spend much time on YouTube, but the app has made it easy for me to subscribe to my church’s channel plus a few others, and keep track of videos I want to watch in the future. It’s the life hack I didn’t know I needed.

2. Facts and statistics don’t always tell the complete story.

“Fake news” is obviously not new, but in paying more attention to the news in recent months, I’ve become much more aware of this alarming phenomenon. Experts on everything from COVID to gun violence are able to present “data” that supports wildly disparate claims, making it difficult to know who to trust. Each day I’m becoming more convicted of the need to do my own research and rely heavily on prayer and my own intuition to make informed decisions.

3. Our town’s little library is the best.

This is something I did know prior to this summer, but in the past few months, our library has proven what a gem it truly is. Charleston and I have been making heavy use of their curbside book service, and we loved picking up FREE daily craft/activity kits every weekday in June and July. Those activities paved the way for some of the biggest highlights of our summer, and while we look forward to the return of in-person library events, we appreciate the efforts of our librarians and local volunteers to offer us these amazing alternatives.

4. A Kindergarten Zoom call is hilarious!

I’ve heard numerous stories about Zoom shenanigans from my teacher friends, and this past Sunday I got a taste of the hilarity they witness every day when we participated in Charleston’s first Kindergarten Sunday School Zoom. Luke and I could barely contain our laughter as we watched kids jumping on beds, chowing down snacks, and spinning in swivel chairs while their poor teacher attempted to engage the kids in discussion. (For the record, Charleston was an excellent participant, answering his teacher’s questions and even raising his hand when he wanted to talk. I was so proud of him for overcoming his initial nervousness to become a Zoom pro.)

5. I love being a homeschooling mom.

True, we’re only one week into our official homeschooling journey, but already God is showing me that homeschooling is absolutely the right fit for our family. Writing lesson plans, creating engaging activities, watching Charleston catch on to new subjects and ideas—it all brings me back to my love for education and taps into my passion for teaching. Seeing the struggles others are having with virtual learning has made me more grateful than ever that God has called our family to a different path.

6. The tooth-loosing stage isn’t terrible.

There are many stages of my kids’ childhood that I have looked forward to, but losing teeth was not one of them. From the time Charleston cut his first tooth five years ago, I’ve dreaded the day when it would come out. But then he literally lost his first tooth on Father’s Day without any wiggling, blood, or fanfare—what a blessing to this queasy mama! Charleston has now lost a second tooth, also without any blood or tears, and I’m finding this might not have been an event to be feared after all. Plus the whole Tooth Fairy business is a lot of fun!

7a. When it comes to race and racism, I have a lot to learn.

In the months since the death of George Floyd, I’ve been reading and listening to black authors, influencers, and friends in order to better understand their experiences. As I dig deeper into this subject, I’ve grown increasingly aware of my own ignorance and also of the complexity of this issue. Beyond the specifics, one of my biggest takeaways has been. . .

7b. . . . one person’s perspective does not always reflect the feelings of an entire group.

Just as I cannot speak for all white individuals (or even all white Christian women), I cannot expect a single black American to speak for millions of people. If I want to truly understand in order to be a constructive force for racial reconciliation, I need to listen to a range of voices—including voices with opposing opinions—with a posture of humility and curiosity, and zero expectations for straightforward, unilateral answers.

8. Life with twins doesn’t get easier, the hard just gets different.

When the twins were born, nearly every mom of twins told me to hang in there, because life with twins would get easier in a few months. That has not been my experience. I didn’t find newborn twins to be nearly as challenging as I’d expected, but I’m now eleven months into parenting them and I don’t know that the difficulty level has lessoned. Yes, some things are easier: they don’t cry as often, and I’m no longer nursing them around the clock. But other things are a lot harder: they are busier and into everything these days, and keeping track of two roaming babies can be pretty exhausting. From my experience with Charleston, and from what I’ve heard from parents of much older kids, my job as their mom will always be “hard,” it’s just that “hard” doesn’t look the same at every stage. Thankfully, I have also found that each stage is even more fun than the last, so there’s always something great to look forward to (and to make up for the not-so-great parts).

9. The secret to surviving the witching hour(s) is to leave the house.

The stretch between about 3:00 until dinnertime has always been difficult for me, even pre-kids. Since the addition of children into my life, it can be an absolute disaster if I’m not proactive about solutions. It’s been too hot to spend the afternoons outdoors, so for the past two months, my solution has been to load all three kids into the car for daily afternoon trips to the gym. Our gym is a twenty-minute drive from our house; add to that my 45-minute workout, plus a quick stop through the McDonald’s Drive-Thru for ice cream and a Diet Coke on the way home, and it gets us out of the house for a solid two hours. The twins are tear-free in the car and in the stroller while we’re on the gym track, and Charleston enjoys running alongside me or watching basketball games taking place on the court below the track. It’s a win all around!

10. When picking up a running habit, it’s crucial to start slow (and have the proper gear).

I’ve always been more of a walker than a runner, but while walking on the gym track last month, I felt the urge to run. The next day, I paid for that rash decision with achey knees and ankles—likely from running too hard, while wearing Tieks. I decided that if I was going to get serious about this running business, I needed to do it the right way. I started wearing appropriate running shoes to the gym, and I downloaded the Couch to 5K app to help me pace myself. It’s not easy to run with our double stroller (which is NOT a jogging stroller), but I’m managing well enough: I’m now on Week 5 of the program, feeling good about running, and injury-free. I haven’t signed up for any races just yet, but this recreational running has done wonders for my mind and my energy levels.

11. Our front porch is my very favorite place.

Dinnertime is madness in our house these days, so I don’t eat my own meal until after 8:00, when all the kids are in bed. This summer I started taking my dinner out to the front porch (where I’m frequently joined by the toad that lives in the planter next to our front door). Our front porch is small, and the view is nothing special, but these evenings outdoors feel magically surreal and have become such a restorative part of my day. Luke often sits with me, and together we watch the sun dip below the horizon as we engage in blissful, interruption-free adult conversation. I have a feeling these evenings will be what I remember most about the summer of 2020, and I hope to carry the tradition forward for as long as weather and life circumstances allow.

As always, I’m linking with Emily P. Freeman to share what we’ve learned in this season. She was my inspiration for starting this routine practice many years ago, and it continues to be a vital part of my personal soul care. And now, it’s your turn: what is one (or five or twelve) thing you learned this summer?

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