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  • Melissa Westemeier

summer of sloth

I didn't take any classes this summer, nor did I teach any. (Except for 3rd grade Sunday School, but that doesn't really count--spending time with those kids was a blessing.)

I planted a fraction of my usual vegetable garden, and most of the flower beds are so established that I rarely pull weeds.

I didn't sign up my kids for a bunch of activities. Partly because they are now TOO OLD and uninterested. No one needs to learn how to swim or take music lessons now. (Wow, when I look back at our old summer schedules I feel exhausted). Mr. T worked, ran and played video games. Mr. B went to a couple wrestling camps, worked out, fished and hung with his buddies. Mr. G played baseball, messed around with his buddies, went to a basketball camp and took speed and agility training. I barely had to drive anyone around it seemed.

I hung out in the hammock.

I bought bags of Cheetos and boxes of toffee crunch ice cream bars and hid them from the other people living in my house so I could eat them all by myself.

I swam a lot of laps.

I read many books.

I finished writing a book.

I went to Oregon with my writing group, where I learned that my book was nearly finished.

I repainted and cleaned out the library. That was kind of a big job. I unloaded 3 tubs of books and threw out a bag of random crap.

In July Mr. T and I took a trip of a lifetime together to England and Paris. I've told each of the boys that I wanted to bring them wherever they want to go in the whole wide world before they graduated. Mr. T and I have planned this trip for months and it went without a hitch.

We started in London for a few days (with day trips to Windsor, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick Castle), then moved to York for a night at England's longest-running convent (medieval walls, towers, York Minster--such a great city). We returned to London to see Much Ado About Nothing at the Globe, then took the train to Bath. From Bath we traveled to Bristol, caught a flight to Paris and saw all the Parisian sights, from the summit of the Eiffel Tower to bottom level of the Saint-Chappelle.

I didn't drive at all during this trip, instead we took trains, buses, subways, planes and hitched a ride with a friend for one leg of our journey. We walked over 100,000 steps. We ate a ridiculous amount of fresh pastries. We discussed politics, social issues, the benefits of public spaces and how cool it would be to live next to really, really old stuff, like Hadrian's Wall. We sorted strange currencies, admired people's dogs and debated the merits of living in a city. We watched fancy-dressed people on their way to a horse race, rugby players practicing, heard musicians rehearsing in St. Paul's Cathedral and saw many, many statues of naked and half-naked people. We were asked to pose for a newspaper photographer beside the River Ouse in York. There was an art market on the Dame Judi Dench Walk and we stood and admired the paintings of the featured artist.

When one sees a Dame Judi Dench Walk one certainly takes a picture. And walks.

We traveled light, a backpack for each of us. This allowed us to easily move around and made airline travel a cinch. The weather was mostly in the 60's in England and since we didn't get too dirty while sightseeing, we packed very light and did laundry when we spent the night in York (our halfway point). I can honestly say that on this trip I didn't pack a single thing I didn't need or use, nor did I forget to pack anything vital. I packed: 5 shirts, 1 jacket, 1 pair black capris, 1 pair jeans, 1 skirt, 5 pair underpants, 1 extra pair of shoes, 1 pair of pajama pants and sleep T-shirt, 1 cardigan, a small bag of toiletries (Mr. T and I shared toothpaste and shampoo), 3 paperback books, a packet of confirmation numbers for hotels and attractions, my purse (with passport, insurance card, sunglasses, money, chap stick and other essentials) and an extra duffel bag for souvenirs on the return trip home because you are allowed one bag and one carry-on item.

Mr. T appreciated the bakeries, ice cream vendors, pub grub, public transportation, history and culture lessons. He likes design elements, architecture and weapons, which we saw at every stop along the way. His views are broader, his imagination piqued and his point of reference is expanded thanks to the experience. And my firstborn and I made some pretty great memories. We get along well, but 11 days of uninterrupted time alone with one other person really allows a deeper connection to develop.

As for me, I appreciated knowing how to work all the things when we got home. I am particularly fond of England and had a total blast on our trip, but by the end I was happy to return home, where I know how to operate a shower, make change and get from one place to the next without THINKING about it all the time. There's a certain ease we enjoy with familiarity.

Oh, and one more thing happened this summer:

Find a stray, keep a stray.

Team Testosterone found a stray kitten in the back yard late July. He was pretty beat up and bedraggled, flea-and-worm-infested and hungry. Of course they brought him in, gave him food, water, litter box and bedding. Of course we've since spent money on vet care and named him Thorn. And of course Mr. G is calling me "Crazy Cat Lady" even though I had absolutely nothing to do with this cat business--aside from setting up the vet appointments and paying the bills. But he's a friendly little guy and very affectionate and Rose is tolerating him.

Sloth indeed. I feel grateful that I had time to do so little and so much.

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