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I am a stay-at-home-mom-turned-freelance writer. That means that during the school year, I have the flexibility to make my schedule around school hours and doctor’s appointments, waking up before the sun to meet a deadline if needed or writing from a coffee shop in the middle of the day. But now that summer break is here, my work time is all mixed up with family time, and the precious “me time” that I so desperately need is getting harder and harder to find.

Most people in my situation would simply enroll their children in archery camp or swimming lessons and go on their merry way. I seriously considered it … and I do mean SERIOUSLY. Finances aside (summer activities for three children is expensive!), I made the conscious decision to keep them home with me instead of making arrangements for the summer.

Yes, all summer long. Yes, all three of them. Yes, I am also working just as much or more than I was during the school year. And yes, I have officially lost my mind.

The thing is, my oldest is on the cusp of tweendom; I know that my time with him is limited. His face is looking more and more like his Daddy’s; handsome features are beginning to chisel out of what used to be rounded, chubby cheeks. He has already outgrown the fun stuff that his siblings love so much, like playing in sprinklers and watching “Curious George.” Now when we visit indoor playgrounds and kiddie pools, he rolls his eyes; he wants to watch Pokemon and read thick books about mythology.

He’s not little anymore. His gangly limbs are reaching higher, as he’s getting quieter. The big kid stuff is within his grasp, a fact that both elates and saddens me. He waffles between helping me around the house and playing with stuffed animals with his little sister. The rare times of catching him playing “baby games” are growing farther and farther apart, I’ve noticed, which makes it so much sweeter when I do tiptoe down the hall and watch from the doorway.

I don’t want to miss those moments.

And then … they’re gone.

Despite my almost daily rants via text to my husband (who is safely at work, able to pee and eat in peace) about how tough this season is with young children, a big part of me hates to see it end. And I know it will end, because my oldest is standing right in front of me, morphing into someone older and different as I watch in amazement.

My younger two children are changing just as rapidly, and it’s startling.

“They’re growing like weeds!” exclaim the grandparents.

They truly are.

This summer will be possibly the last summer with all of them home, just happily hanging out with their mom and each other. Right now, they still play with Magna Tiles and Legos. They still need me. They are happy to cuddle and chill and their expectations are low, because their world is still small. I like it like this, hard and impossible-feeling as it can be. Even when it seems like I’m going to die of exhaustion trying to keep all of the balls in the air, I know in my gut that it’s worth it. Hard things are the most worthwhile, even though getting through them can really suck.

When I am juggling emails and sippy cups and I walk across a trail of potato chips and sigh with disgust because I know I am the one who will have to vacuum them up … it’s amazing to remember that my oldest child is now big enough to wrangle our enormous vacuum cleaner. And before I know what is happening, I hear myself say, “What in the world will I do without you when school starts in 49 days?”

Yes, I’m counting the days.

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