Janis sang (to my generation, anyway)–

Summertime, and the living’s easy…

Fish are jumpin’, and the cotton’s high…

Your daddy’s rich, and your mama’s good looking…

Hush now, baby, don’t you cry….

I was born 46 years ago this midsummer weekend. Maybe that’s why I feel such an affinity for the midle of June, the long days, the blue skies, ripe fruit, lightning bugs and quick summer thunderstorms.

This morning the kids did their homeschooling in the sun room while I made pots at the wheel I moved to the deck. Before lunch, Connor took an old tie-dyed sheet out to spread it under the mulberry tree and shake the branches. He came back to sort and wash a big bowl of mulberries; some joined the back yard currants and cherries in the freezer, and the rest became turnovers for their dessert.

It’s been a good week, the calm before the schedule-storm of boy scout camp, then my three week summer session sculpture course (at EMU and then up north near Traverse City, MI). I am enjoying the rhythm of days, and being home with my kids.

We don’t do a lot of school work in summer, but are doing some projects together that we didn’t have time for last year with my school/commute schedule. So little of what we do involves and “I teach, you listen” , and they usually work independently, but this summer we’re working on our ancient history timeline, making posters about geometry, and doing an economics study unit together.

Family and home life feel really good when I have time to do things well. Jeff and I took a look in the mirror and decided we’d gotten out of the habit of eating healthy, so I’ve made some changes that have us all feeling (and looking) better. There is a perpetually refilled tupperware box of raw veggies in the fridge, and everybody elbows in whenever I put it out on the counter. Fresh local fruit fills bowls on the counter and has replaced sugary desserts, and we have started eating smaller meals, 5 times a day. I serve from the stove or counter instead of leaving bowls and platters at the table, and we’re all drinking more water, all day long. We ride our bikes everywhere, including homeschool meetings at the metropark, saxophone and art lessons, the grocery store and the post office.

I am hoping, for my birthday, to get one of those rear view mirrors that attaches to my bike helmet so I can truly be a bike geek. I’m not quite ready for the spandex bike pants. Maybe after another several hundred miles of pedaling.

Last night my kids pitched tents in the back yard and slept out there. Connor and Molly were in the two man tent, and Tyler pitched the little dome tent off by the hedge, feeling adventurous and independent and older. By 11:00, though, I looked out to see the two glowing domes parked side by side, sharing a screen. I guess they missed each other’s company. They had caught fireflies and released them inside the tents, so when the lights went out the fireflies hung on the screen-domed ceiling and blinked their little lovelorn morse codes all night long.

Tonight Connor’s out there in the big tent with his sleepover friend Rhys. I had ridden my bike — trailer full of wet pots — over to teach at the guild, leaving them cooking kielbasa on skewers over the fire they’d built in the chiminea, and when I rode home late tonight (moon bright, and the evening star blazing away) I walked across the cool grass to say goodnight to them in their tent.

It’s the big square family tent, three rooms. They had a lantern on in the middle section and were sitting near one tent wall, talking, waving their arms to illustrate some wild dialogue. It looked like shadow theater, perfect silhouettes of two animated boys, projected in the dark yard larger than life.

Twelve is a good age. They are so excited about everything, so grown up in a lot of ways, but still boys. From their encampment in the wilds of the back of the yard, they are Lewis and Clark — except with a game boy, and popcorn.

Connor came out in his jammies to give me a hug goodnight, bubbling with enthusiasm that makes me wonder if he’ll sleep at all, tonight. “Rhys says this is the best sleepover EVER”, he said, grinning.

Life just seems incredibly sweet, in this solstice day of generous light and ripe fruit, warm days and cool sleeping weather. The kitten wrestles again and again with a tennis shoe, tantalized by the dangling mouse-tail shoelaces, and sticking her paws into the deep mouse-hole of the shoe’s inside. Her imaginary battle is full of prowling advances and hasty retreats, pounce attacks and wild, halloween-kitty sideways arched poses. She weighs not much more than a bit of dandelion fluff, but can thunder through the house making enough stompy noises for several buffalo.

My mom and dad took me out to Rosies for lunch today, for an early birthday celebration, as they’ll be heading for the lake for the weekend. They gave me an ipod. I am sufficiently middle aged and uncool that I barely know what it is, or how to work it — though I have the weekend to learn.

I was not tempted by the music as much as the nerd factor… my friend Regina told me she’s able to download and listen to lectures about library science. Me, I’d like to be able to hear the podcast versions of all the lectures I had to miss at this year’s NCECA ceramics conference in Lousiville. I always say (about homeschooling, or having kids, or whatever) that everything we choose, unchooses something else (often something of value.) It’s like that at a conference, where you have to decide between two rockin’ choices in the same time block.

So picture me totally hip… my flaming blue bike helmet with the little pointy racer thing on the front… my pee wee herman bike with the wicker basket, headlight, tail light, and bike trailer full of pots (or tools, or groceries, or library books, or picnic lunch) … a bright blue ipod the size of a graham cracker in my pocket, with earphones in my ears as I pedal down the road, listening to Ron Roy talking about glaze chemistry.

I’m off to bed. Tomorrow morning I plan to get up early and make pad pots for all the patient granola types who have emailed me to ask after them. I’m making mulberry buckwheat pancakes for my sleepover boys. I need to plant the six eggplants I brought home from the late season clearance of scraggly plants in a grocery store parking lot, feed them well and wish them luck. It’s late in the season to be just getting started, but maybe we’ll have an indian summer. Anything seems possible.

Then it’s the weekend. Crosby Festival of the Arts is always on my birthday, which is great because every year my father in law sends me a check for my age ($46 this time!) and I go shop at the fair. They were setting up tonight when I went to the gardens to teach my class — artists pulling in with campers, volunteers there to guide and help them, rows of bottled water awaiting the crowds.

My boys will be parking cars in front of my dad’s building with their scout troop, to raise money. Cold bottled water for a buck, and for a few extra dollars they’ll wash the car while their customers are at the fair.

Molly wants to make a lemonade stand Saturday in our front yard, to take advantage of the increased traffic during the art fair. It’s one of the “try it” projects in her Brownie Girl Scout book. Maybe I will set up some tables, too, and sell the two things that are always overflowing around here: pots, and books.

Good night.. good, short, midsummer night.