The mattering kind

Jul 03

Today my house reverberates with the sounds of children at play.  This is summer.

My two are ten and six, but the thundering stampede of feet in and out and up and down reveal that there is a full herd of small people thumping around our property today.  The faces change as they finish swim practice and dance camp and leave for baseball and cookouts.  I love the impromptu doorbell rings and back door knocks, and that when I look up out my kitchen window there is a full volleyball game going on with all the neighborhood kids.  I bring them popsicles because this is summer.

They made their own breakfast this morning, which is not new; they have long been capable in that arena.  (Hunger is a great motivator.)  However, the novelty that they also now clean up their own breakfast has not worn off.

I measure my energy and intent for the day and put my Fun Mom hat on.  My lists were checked off in the days prior (thanks to helpful friends), so I’m primed for this.

I help Greta and her friends get out all of the art supplies they want and smile to myself as I listen to them chatter.  And where is even one of the twenty pairs of scissors we own?  And they find the box of beads from the basement.  And they raid the recycle bin.  And why are we out of aluminum foil?

I ask Maren and her friends if they want to plan lunch and dessert: find a recipe, get dropped off that the store to shop for ingredients, prepare it, and clean up.  Their faces beam with enthusiasm, and I give them snippets of advice about recipe-choosing (add “easy” to the search bar) and leave them to it.

I sit down, and note again that we’re in a new stage.  Because, I’m sitting.  I’m not trying to keep a toddler from painting the walls, I’m not talking to anyone about the potty, and no one puts non-food items in their mouths.  Pinch me.  The ten-year-olds make a grocery list, take inventory of the pantry, and run it by me with a swell of responsibility and pride.  The six-year-olds have taken their craft and are now outside adding flower petals, grass clippings, and rocks.

We drop the big kids off at the store and swap out some little kids; the minivan and maximum seating is a critical element to this stage.  Brad and I knew we wanted a party bus when we bought the Andervan.  He spoils us.

The littles get busy with performing a play (still using the craft from hours ago as props), and the bigs take over the kitchen.  I eyeball the kitchen scene and make a few safety-related suggestions, but mostly leave them to make and fix their own mistakes along the way.  I know if I ‘help’, I will take over, and that’s not the goal.  I head to the basement and clap enthusiastically as I try to follow the elusive plot line of the play.

I find myself sitting again after passing through the kitchen where there was an up-ended container of cocoa powder on the counter and floor with a trio of ten-year-olds who had found the broom, dustpan, and floor cleaner and were team-working the cleanup.  Lunch itself was in mid-process, so it looked pretty chaotic.  I willfully passed the whole scene with a thumbs up and a ‘you’ve got this’ with nary an interference.

Lunch is tacos, and they are delicious.  I am full of compliments and offer to wash the dishes after they do the rest of the cleanup.  The littles don’t eat tacos, because that would be entirely too much magic in one day, but the bigs graciously make them peanut butter sandwiches.  Without prompting from me, spinach, carrots and grapes are part of the offerings.

After lunch they split off again.  Dolls are dining, chalk is drawn, swings are creaking.  This is summer.

An out-of-nowhere summer downpour begins.  Maren blows in and asks if they can put on their swimsuits and play in the rain.  “Sure,” I say.  Almost as enthused as she is, I get the camera and capture shots of them in the rain.  Rivers of water stream from above, water crashes out of the gutters, and the garden soaks it up.  It’s brilliant.  The squeals, the grass clipping stuck to their feet, the way they tilt their faces to the sky and try to drink the rain: it’s all so wonderfully familiar and nostalgic.  This is summer.

Tonight I tuck them in and kiss their new freckles.  I memorize their sleepy, up-past-bedtime eyes, and inhale the scene of child-at-play that so perfectly captures this day of their childhood.

On my way to find Brad after the bedtime slam dunk, I survey the pile of lost things on the stairs, note the rivulets of cocoa powder between the floorboards, and see with chagrin that — despite my earlier comment about paint on the walls — there is in fact paint on the wall.  There are consequences and fallout from our day, but none of it is the kind of thing that matters.  When my kids reflect upon their childhood summers, it may well be memories this exact day that waft through their minds.

Empty hours to fill, creative blooms, laughter, sticky faces and fingers, fireflies.  This is summer, the mattering kind.


It should be obvious that this hardly defines every day of our summer.  We had irksome pre-swim practice whining times two today.  Seemingly every towel in the house is unfolded and strewn about.  The floors and counters are crumb-y.  Today I left for chemo with strict work orders for the girls.  “Mommy’s doing chemo, Daddy’s working hard, you’ve got to pull your weight and here’s your checklist of responsibilities for the day.  Get after it.”  They know this drill as well as the Fun Mom drill, and they will do the work so they can get back to activities of the mattering kind. 


  1. Dave /

    50 Years!

  2. Maryann /


  3. Mary Ricke /

    Oh, the memories your girls will have! You are a great mama-the mattering kind! Bravo!

  4. Kim Rourke /


  5. Kay /

    Hi Jen,
    Good job! Praying .

  6. Marge Greene /

    PERFECT! The summer day you describe with Maren and Greta is every child’s dream. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, actions, triumphs and also the hard times. You are an inspiration.

  7. Marlayne /

    🙂 🙂 Summer 🙂 🙂 Bug Hugs & Memories 🙂

  8. Marlayne /

    Ps: That’s BIG Hugs 🙂 🙂 🙂

  9. Nancy Zwolinski /


  10. Diana Gibson /

    Magic – both types of day!

  11. Christy /

    Beautiful post! Sounds like the perfect unplanned, let-it-unfold summer day ☀️ Loved your ability to let go of control and gift them with your simple presence and encouragement. A powerful lesson for all. My favorite was the image of them dancing in the rain ?

  12. Allanah /

    Haha as I read your post I have fond memories of last year. Dare I say I miss it????? I too will carry memories of crazy Anderson summer. Loved every minute of it.

  13. Everything about this post is beautiful: the magic of childhood summer with a can-do parent in charge who in turn allows the kids to be in charge of their fun; the mom who sees and captures the joy in words and photos for posterity; the honesty about it being a snapshot and not full-on, all-the-time fun; the partnership you and Brad have built and the responsibility you are teaching your kids.
    I have tears in my eyes now.

  14. Kathleen Roth /

    Makes me nostalgic! Beautifully written.

  15. Kara /

    You mother so well.

  16. Christin /

    I learn so much from you constantly. Your magical (and non-magical :)) posts make me dig deep to cherish each day. You draw me toward the mom I want to be. (Thanks for always keeping it real, too. It’s not a mom bar that’s too high, it’s just a bar that I really want to hold on to.)

    I love you deeply and I pray often!

  17. Another Jen /

    I love everything about this. <3

  18. Cindy Mitchell /

    Jen, this was a super summer day that your girls will cherish forever. You are so awesome. You are doing a great job with all you do.. You have more energy than I could have ever dreamed of.. Proud of you girl. keep up your descriptive writing. It was like I was there with you watching the girls.. Forever Cherished Childhood Memories.. love it. Have a great summer. It has only begun ..