I’ll Miss These Footprints 

It's rained this week. Endless showers that have flooded the garden and left us confined to the house. Thunder rumbling too close for comfort and bright flashes of lightening that bring so much joy to three young boys. 

This morning I slipped outside at 7a.m. to clean out the hens while it was still dry. More storms are forecast and they desperately needed doing. The silence was deafening. Nothing but the gentle cooing of the chicks pecking softly in the dirt. The rhythmic actions of a task so familiar it's become somewhat comforting. 

Once the boys were dressed we headed to the park and made good use of a waterlogged sandpit. They sat sculpting sand-men, concentration evident on tanned faces. They balanced on the obstacle course, spotted the conkers growing thick and fast in various corners of the play area and made friends with a little girl called Maria. Squirrels danced in the trees, putting on a show of hide and seek for the children.

Returning home for lunch, we sat in the warm sunshine. The boys play in the garden, splashing through muddy puddles. 

I call them in, but they ignore me. So I go to them. I take the bread board outside, the flour, the yeast, the salt. They run inside briefly to wash their hands, trailing wet footprints through the living room. All the while I tell myself, like a mantra I don't quite believe: I'll miss these footprints when they're gone. 

We sit on the patio making pizza dough, soaking up as much of the day as possible before the heavens open once more. The wood on the benches is damp, but somehow it doesn't even matter. 

Later, as the boys pass through the kitchen, they fling their toppings on freshly rolled pizza bases, haphazard and clumsy. There's grated cheese all over the place. My eldest has a smear of tomato purée across his eyelid. 

As the rain finally arrives, the boys climb into the bath to wash muddy legs and speckled faces. We find fresh pyjamas and settle down to read a couple of chapters of Treasure Island together before bed. 

Simplicity. Sundays. They fit together so perfectly. 

Lucky

It’s summer, in case any of you hadn’t noticed. And it’s beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that I don’t even want to write about it because I don’t feel I could do it justice. 

Instead I snap another photo of my youngest with his hen. I’m not even sure if this hen is his favourite hen or whether he is her favourite boy. They’re permanently attached, at any rate. 

The garden is still under construction and my husband slogs away on each of his days off. He works like a champ and my heart bursts with pride at how hard he’s working for our family right now. 

He comes home from work with some ear defenders for my eldest to wear at the truck racing this weekend; remembering how he finds the noise a little overwhelming.

He pops to the bank and returns with fresh bread and Chelsea buns. He makes us cheese and pickle sandwiches that taste so much better for not having to have made them myself. 

He kicks the football with the boys over and over and over. 

The boys pester him to show them how to use the drill. So he does. Once, twice, again. Then the middle boy, then the youngest. Then it’s, ‘can I clamp that piece of wood, Dad?’ And I see him falter, wanting to get the job done and instead he says, ‘yep, come on then.’ 

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

July is spinning hazily away from me. The days tumble ever closer to August and the dog days of summer. But as I sit back and watch my family, I realise how irrelevant time really is. The only time I need to understand is what’s right here in front of me. 

Apple keep emailing me telling me I’m almost out of storage space. I don’t care. I keep snapping endless photos of the same beautiful faces, of cuddling chickens, of riding bikes, my children sleeping, vague attempts at getting all three to look in the same direction. 

Because one day, memories of these endless summers with small boys will be just that: stilted, fading memories. 

In the meantime, my husband slipped out of bed at 4.30 this morning to go to work. The least I can do right now is put the kettle  on and head out onto a patio still warm from the late afternoon sun. The boys are asleep, exhausted after a park meet with home ed. friends. We’ll sit and enjoy coffee, him and I. Here and now. 

Sundays

The boys are outside at 6.30 a.m. They weave around the garden on their bikes after eating breakfast on the patio. We go to a church coffee morning with some of my favourite people. Long dresses and loose hair. Big jumpers. Croissants and black coffee. 

Returning home I flick the oven on. I peel potatoes with a rhythm that is so familiar these days. I make cheese sauce and it reminds me of my father, as it always does. The patience with which he taught me to make it over and over again until I finally mastered it.

An hour of Reading Eggs with the boys. A robin and a wren sit on the garden wall side by side in quiet company. Muttley sleeps in front of the fridge and he is, as always, in the way. 

I watch my youngest tumble off his bike, still learning the art of balance after taking off his stabilisers. My middle boy helps him up, enveloping him in an enormous cuddle.

My phone buzzes softly on the kitchen worktop with another message. I leave it. It will still be there tomorrow. My middle boy brings me notes with clumsily sounded-out words. 

We sit and eat together, plates piled high. Everyone loves a roast dinner. 

Bath time – which is no longer all three boys in the bath together, but separate showers for growing boys who want their independence and space. I no longer have to get their pyjamas ready for them. I no longer need to wrap them up in towels. I no longer need to scrub their dirty faces. It’s bittersweet, this transition into boyhood. We tuck ourselves into my eldest’s bed to read together, the way we do every night. I try to enjoy it as much as possible, before they outgrow it and tell me they can read themselves. 

Birds chirrup as the evening lazily rolls on. The grey sky splits for mere moments into pink and yellow; so fragile it looks to be painted with watercolours. Then grey consumes the heavens once more as the light fades from yet another day. 

The simplicity of Sunday makes it my favourite day. 

July

It’s July and the half way point of the year has passed me by. The longest day of the year came and went and just like that the days are getting shorter again. I sit outside each evening soaking up the last few hours of the day as I sip scalding green tea.

These last few weeks have seen me take a breather from friendships. I’ve made more time to spend with just us, this little family of five that brings me so much joy. 

We’ve been camping with friends. The boys got caught up in the excitement of finally buying sleeping bags and cooking over a camp stove. A beautiful play area. An enormous tub of popcorn. Early mornings sitting on damp grass in pyjamas. And somehow, the lazy afternoon that followed, with takeaway food and watching James and the Giant Peach was just as enjoyable as the camping itself. Sleepy boys worn out from too much excitement and a late night.

Today brought pond dipping at a favourite haunt. Disposable BBQ’s with pakoras and sausages, houmous, peppers, cucumber and cous cous. Skinny dipping. The simple pleasures of small boys.

The boys paddle in the garden. They spend hours trying to master the monkey-bars. We eat outside every chance we get. The scent of sun cream lingers long after cool showers at the end of the day. Fresh pyjamas and clean, line dried sheets. 

It’s summer. And my goodness, does it feel good.