temp check.

June 10, 2021

It’s been steamy in Brooklyn this week. Steamy and sweaty with sun that forces you off your regular route in search of shade. The hydrangeas have started poking their way out from between wrought iron fences and sudden humidity is making them hang pendulously over the sidewalks. Our kitchen cabinet painting project has been showing up in my dreams, which I can’t say is entirely welcome, but at least in real life the task is nearly complete.

In a few weeks, all three of our kids will be out of school or organized activities through the end of July and so James and I are belatedly letting the realities of summer sink in and putting plans into place, excited for the chance to be reunited with family and to triangulate visits between states and cousins. We’re foolishly optimistic that we’ll manage summertime work and childcare in a way that’s less painful than the juggle we fumbled with for so much of the last year, but hope springs eternal and we’re telling ourselves that by now we’ve all grown used to the challenge.

Still, as we clean our paintbrushes and step through the maze of cabinet doors we’ve laid out on the dining room floor, we’re also recognizing our need to carve out time away from the juggle altogether. We’re setting our sights on a break from emails and work and painting anything more than watercolor postcards. We need a stretch of lazy days without to-do lists or obligations; with nothing but tan lines and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to worry over.

I’m dreaming of finding an old station wagon to call our own, and loading it up with duffle bags stuffed with shorts and t-shirts and more books than anyone might reasonably be able to read. I’m hoping we’ll bump along a dirt road and find a little cabin at the end of it. Maybe there will be a pond or a stretch of rocky beach—a craggy spot where we can crash for a bit and beam out clear message:

Out of office. Away from my desk. Without internet until further notice…

We need a week or two when we might get to enjoy each other’s company without the constant distraction of work and the brain-splitting attempts to be three or four things at once to three or four different people. Just one or two things to three or four different people sounds like a dream to me.

If anyone has leads for the perfect getaway for two beleaguered parents and their three young children, let me know. I’m putting it out to the universe that we could use a quiet and clean spot to land for a little time away, just the five of us. Ditto if you’ve got a lead on an old station wagon…

PS. Speaking of temperature, we were lucky to get a new air conditioner right before the heatwave. I researched options and reached out to July over the winter to see if we might be able to test-drive one of their new models this spring. It was—forgive the pun—a breeze to install as promised, and it’s been heroically cooling us down without being a total bummer to look at for the last week. They’re currently sold out, but here’s my ringing endorsement and if you’re in need, encouragement to hop on their waitlist.

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  • Reply Judith Ross June 10, 2021 at 4:28 pm

    No station wagons or good vacation spots to suggest, but here’s a book I highly recommend (and was just endorsed by Wednesday Chef): Writers & Lovers by Lily King. I hope you find that break you are looking for. It’s both well deserved and a long time coming.

  • Reply kim June 10, 2021 at 4:40 pm

    You and the family in an ol’ wood paneled station wagon, with Faye’s and Silas’ feet peeking out the back window, all windows down breeze, your arm causally draped out the passenger side–what a visual! You must do this! (seat belt laws be damned!)

  • Reply riye June 10, 2021 at 5:12 pm

    I’m following along with all your home stuff and the posts are making me feel better about waiting for the contractor to come by and give us an estimate for fixing the bathtub faucets (some tile demolition will probably be needed). We need to fix everything by August when our extended family starts trickling in.

    Good luck on finding a nice vacation spot! You certainly deserve a break!

    P.S. My vote goes for a vacation spot near water–even if that means a hotel pool.

    • Reply Katharine June 11, 2021 at 3:02 pm

      Yes, seconding a spot near the water! It’s the best way to signal (to yourself and everyone else) that this isn’t business as usual. And after this last year, we all really need a break from what has passed for business as usual! Keeping my fingers crossed that you and your family get a lovely vacation.

  • Reply Katie June 10, 2021 at 5:30 pm

    We just took our first long-weekend getaway since February 2020. Two adults, one 3.5 year old, one dog. We went to Litchfield County in Northwest Connecticut and had a GREAT time–lots of easy hikes in nature preserves, cute towns to stroll around in, good places for takeout. I hadn’t realized how much we *all* needed to get away. My son hasn’t been in any kind of care, EVER (which was not the plan…) and just seeing him get so excited about new experiences and smells and the texture of air made me realize how much we need to prioritize and budget for a change of pace for all of us.

  • Reply Jessica June 10, 2021 at 7:19 pm

    I would highly recommend driving up to Portland, taking the car ferry up to Nova Scotia (overnight! You can get a cabin!). Drive around a bit and head toward Prince Edward Island, where you’ll catch a ferry (with an extremely Wes Anderson vibe) to Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC, Canada. Spend some days on the island, then take the ferry back and take a lazy road trip home.

    • Reply Jane June 11, 2021 at 11:10 am

      The ferry to NS isn’t running this year, but it is a lovely province with cheap places to rent! (And stringent quarantine requirements – oh 2021)

    • Reply Swissrose June 28, 2021 at 1:12 pm

      Peter May wrote a crime thriller set on the Madeleine islands…!

  • Reply Megan June 10, 2021 at 7:53 pm

    Ditto all of this. Our family of 4 is about to drive 2 hours from home for a two night get away to give a test run before flying out of state in August to visit family for a more extended period of time. Will be here when you come back, see you on the other side.

  • Reply Katie June 10, 2021 at 8:49 pm

    My family and I spent a magical week at a little seaside cottage in Lincolnville, Maine last summer. I think about our trip on the regular and I hope to return someday.

  • Reply laura June 10, 2021 at 8:54 pm

    You are welcome to use our old Subaru that is just sitting in the ferry parking lot, desperate for a drive up the Maine coast! There’s even a car seat and baby carrier in the trunk.

    • Reply Sara June 11, 2021 at 10:11 am

      What a generous offer, Laura!

  • Reply Elizabeth June 10, 2021 at 9:14 pm

    We just returned from a week in Vermont and I can’t recommend enough. Daily schedule was wake up and find coffee and something sweet for breakfast and then hike or meander through town until we went back to our cabin at lunch time. We’d eat and nap or relax and then head out for breweries, dinner and ice cream. 4 year old loved it as much as we did and super appreciated us not ever having to check our emails.

  • Reply Ashley June 11, 2021 at 7:43 am

    NY had no shortage of great lakes, but we love escaping to Bemus Point on Lake Chautauqua. So peaceful.

  • Reply Erika June 11, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    We will be trucking our family for a 12+ hour car ride to the Maine coast this August in a 13 year old station wagon we are running into the ground. The label now says “utbk” and the radio tuner only catches the strongest of signals. There will be fussing, whining, too much tablet watching, and not enough podcast listening, but once we tumble out of the car at the ferry landing and dip our feet in the water, all will be forgotten. May you and yours find the break you deserve.

  • Reply Carolina June 11, 2021 at 3:18 pm

    Hi Erin~

    One idea is a home exchange! We are former New Yorkers living outside of Boston but looking for an exchange in NYC. We have a nice 3 bedroom home in a small town, with a yard and garden within walking distance to the train in to Boston. There is a much loved town beach within walking distance of our house where all the town kids take swim lessons and spend the day swimming with all of the other town kids. We are 2 hours away from the Berkshires on one side and Cape Cod (and other ocean beaches) on the other, and Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire are all an hour away for camping (which we have all of the equipment for). I have 2 teens who want to spend time in the city (my older daughter’s home town) and a dog and guinea pig who would probably need to stay here. Feel free to email if something like that interests you!

  • Reply Ellen June 12, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    Check out Camp Calumet near Ossippee, NH. It’s got a beautiful lake, campground or Conference Center rooms (rustic) and activities for children and families. You can sign up for breakfast and supper and lunch is always a barbecue on the beach.

    Maine is a great place to fins a cabin rental.

  • Reply Ellen June 12, 2021 at 1:09 pm


    I didn’t know whether they even made station wagons any more, but here’s a listing available in Hartford CT.

  • Reply Hannah Carlson August 26, 2021 at 11:12 pm

    I am also still looking to do this even though now it is the end of summer. In two weeks our three kids and us are headed to a cottage (thank you AirB&B) on Lake Michigan for a week of no wi-fi, sand castles, board games, good books, and swimming. I can’t wait. I hope our 19 year old Volvo station wagon will be up for the trip, but it has been an old faithful buddy, as are most old station wagons 🙂 Hope you found your old station wagon and had a real relaxing summer too!

  • Reply EK October 26, 2023 at 4:36 pm

    Hi! I know this is an older post but I just wanted to warn other people about a horrible experience I had with July. I purchased two units from them, believing the promise plastered all over their website that they offered “easy returns.” After a professional AC installer told me their slider window units were unsafe and could fall from my windows, I went to return the units as July promised. Only for July to tell me my units were actually final sale, and not the “easy returns” they advertised. I’m horrified by this fraudulent marketing on their part and hope to save other people from the similar heartache and expense.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 23, 2024 at 2:47 pm

      Yikes. This is so disappointing to read. We haven’t had any issues or concern about our installation (or the machines themselves), but I’m so sorry to learn about your experience! Does not inspire confidence!

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