Biking the Camp Loop

bike riding

The hill was just the right level of difficulty for my 10 year old self. Steep enough to be a thrilling coast down, but not so terrifying to worry about skinned-knees. My sisters and I would ride down this hill again and again over the next few days.

Pop up Camper

Our favorite campsite was just a less than an hour from home, so the anticipation of arrival was short. Once we drove around the camp loop (sometimes twice if we missed our number), my dad would slowly back in the pop-up trailer, and we knew we had arrived.My parents would get right to work popping up the camper, and we sometimes stuck around long enough to unpack the coolers, lawn chairs, and other camping gear. But, once those bikes were removed from the top of the van, we were gone.

If we were lucky, the parks and rec would have just black-top paved the camp loop, so it was smooth sailing (also great for when we became proficient roller-bladers as teens.)

Continue reading “Biking the Camp Loop”

$5 and a Watermelon Slice

The nights would be sticky and humid, and the cicadas chirping away. The sun was still high in the sky after dinner, and my dad and i would begin our weekly trek to grandma’s. On these nights, I got out of dishes-and-sweeping duty.

For many summers until I graduated high school, I would join my dad in caring for his mom’s yard. It wasn’t too large, and she had a riding lawn-mower, so looking back, maybe my dad liked the company, or maybe (probably) he was trying to instill a work ethic in his daughter.

We would jump into his truck, loaded with our push mower, my machine for the night, and drive the several blocks to her home.

I usually mowed the front, which had fewer trees to maneuver around, and was smaller. But, it faced the road, so the lines needed to be neat and straight. While dad worked on the backyard, I would walk up and down, drinking in the smells of freshly-cut grass.

I never minded this chore; it was nice to be outside in the evenings, my dad was good company, and my grandma paid me $5– a lot of cash for to a 12 year old– even to a teen for a hours’ worth of work. After finishing the yard and packing up the mower again, we’d head in to visit with Grandma.

I loved her home. It smelled of her perfume, food, and butterscotch candy. Although diabetic, she had a crystal candy jar that was routinely emptied by her 40-some grandkids. She kept homemade chocolate chip cookies in the lazy susan cabinet. And she almost never failed to have watermelon sliced for us after we mowed.

Looking back, I see now how wonderful it was, these visits with just my dad, his mom and me. Other times at her house, there would be a mixture of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. But these quiet summer nights were just us. We would chat about the yard, the neighbors, the local goings-on in town, and occasionally stayed long enough for a round of cards. Often, her phone would ring and I would get the privilege of answering it (this thrilled and scared me at the same time.) It was usually an uncle, and we’d chat briefly before handing it on to Grandma.

“Well, I guess we’d better go,” my dad would say. The sun was dropping in the west, the bugs were increasing their nightly song, and there was a good chance my dad still had some odd-jobs around our house to complete before bedtime. We’d wave goodbye, my $5 bill in hand, and a comfortable feeling of belonging and being needed.

Grandma passed away during my freshman year of college, so the mowing sessions ended then. But when the weather is just so, and the sun about to set, I think frequently of those lovely summer evenings I passed with her and my dad.I’m grateful for the love, work, and watermelon bestowed on me during those care-free summer nights.

The Simplicity Parenting Style

Not much about 2020 and 2021 feels “simple.” Not much about parenting feels simple! But I recently I stumbled upon the aptly named “simplicity parenting” style, and I’ve been trying to implement the ideas into our family life.

This method should be called “common sense parenting.” The counselor and educator, Kim John Payne, works with families to reduce the noise, clutter and general chaos that is overtaking our homes and lives. He strives to equip parents with the tools that allow children to connect, thrive, and live anxious-free and simple childhoods.

Imagine your life… with a sense of ease as you begin to limit distractions and say no to too much, too fast, too soon. Today’s busier, faster, supersized society is waging an undeclared war . . . on childhood. 

Kim John Payne of simplicity parenting

As a general rule, my husband and I love being home, and we don’t over-commit our kids in all the activities. We try to keep after school hours and the weekends fairly free from too many outings. — However, life is still life and our days are sometimes busy and stressed. And we have recognized that our kids feel the crunch and stress as well.

Payne suggests four areas or “realms” that, if simplified, can start to dial back the craziness of life:

Environment: De-cluttering too much stuff at home.

Rhythm: Increasing predictability by introducing rhythmic moments for connection and calm.

Scheduling: Soothing violent schedules brings moments for Being into all the Doing.

Unplugging: Reducing the influence of adult concerns, media and consumerism on children and families to increase resilience, social and emotional intelligence.

The gold of this method really lies in his podcast. Every one is pure gold. Find them on whatever app you use to listen to podcasts! You won’t regret it.

Books Children Can Relate To

Life is a journey, and not always (usually?) an easy one. Looking back at my childhood, it’s simple to say it was carefree and challenge-free. But that isn’t true. Navigating school, homelife, chores, increasing responsibly, frustrating younger (or older) siblings, the list goes on.

Here are a handful of my favorite kids books that they can relate to, and begin to see that they aren’t the only ones in the world who think a certain way, or feel frustrated by this or that.

Frog and Toad: These tales are filled with the drama of everday life. Losing buttons, failing to fly a kite, needing time alone to refresh, and having ice cream melt all over your head. Every story is relatable.

Ramona the Pest. This one works no matter where your child falls in the sibling order. Older siblings will realize their younger kid sister isn’t the most annoying one in the world. The Ramonas of the world will see that maybe their tendency to ride their tricycle around the checkers board actually is annoying.

Thunder Cake: Patricia Polocco deserves her own post, but for now this one helps kids conquer their fear of storms, while including the ever-comforting warmth of Grandma.

The Hundred Dresses. Oh, this sweet story is about a young polish girl who doesn’t quite fit in with her class. It is told from the viewpoint of her classmates who bully her and comes to regret their behavior. A Brilliant story beautifully told.

Charlotte’s Web: This children’s classic shows the timeless lessons of friendship, sacrifice, growing up and the love between friends.

The Story of Ferdinand: “He likes to just sit there and be quiet and smell the flowers.” This one is for your budding introvert.

A Lot More to come! Stay Tuned!

Light

Photo by David Tomaseti on Unsplash

Anything that gives light must burn.

As I was returning a stroller-full of books to my library this week, I began chatting with a stranger about the work of parenthood. He had commented on my double stroller- a contraption he hadn’t seen before- or perhaps not noticed before.

He had spent the last 10 months caring for his newborn granddaughter, and he missed her. She was now in daycare, and his days were a little more empty. Yet he was now tuned into the work of childcare, now taking notice of the brilliance of double strollers.

We chatted a bit about the high-level of care and activity children require and I mentioned how my mom often says “there is a reason people have children in their 20’s, and not their 50s!”

He responded in the most sincere and serious voice:

“We parents and grandparents are the fertilizer for the next generation. Anything that gives light must burn.”

Anything that gives light must burn.

I had expected him to agree with my small talk with a hearty agreement about how much work small children are, but instead his comment went right to my heart.

Life is sacrifice. We must burn ourselves up, give of ourselves, to share our light with our children, family, friends and community.

It was a stunning and beautiful reminder from a stranger that I needed to hear.

I ate your crackers all.

My toddler is not quite three years old, so I suppose many would say he’s in the thoroughs of the terrible twos. But are they so terrible? Some days, I would say yes.

But as we are closing in on his upcoming third birthday, I’m more often like to say:

Terrific twos. This age brings so much excitement and fun to life. I love seeing a two-year old’s discovery of how water can dump out of a bucket, the thrill of running through the grass with a butterfly net, or the endearing way he believes he can “catch the bird!” And then he’s heartbroken when the bird flies away, yet again

The way he can tear apart his sister’s neatly arranged bed, jewelry box, and treasured toys in a matter of seconds. When accused of the crime, he admits to it with great joy, not understanding the aggravation he is causing the eldest child.

The way he is quick to help me in the kitchen, mashing potatoes for dinner, squishing his hands in the bread dough, and pouring the sugar for dad’s afternoon tea.

This age brings the ability to pretend and play. Witnessing his imagination with just his backhoe loader, fire engine, and “thomas guy” (a thomas the tank engine driver) is such a delight.

The sweet innocent way he tells the truth, no matter what. The minute dad gives him a sweet or vitamin gummy bear- he’s off to tell his sisters about his bounty. When he takes their snack we hear “SweetPea, I ate your crackers all.”

When I leave him home with dad to run an errand or fetch the girls from school, he laments with tear-filled eyes, “Mama, I lost you! Don’t lose me again!”

As of late, he won’t give me kisses or hugs every time I ask (as they do when they are between one and two years, another magical age.) but instead I hear “Mama, lets fight!” He wants to tumble, toss pillows, throw balls and general rough-house with whoever is willing and able.

Perhaps the greatest joys of motherhood is the gift of watching your young child grow, develop and mature. As we turn the corner of the “terrible twos,” I can’t wait to see what the “thrilling threes” have in store for us.

Growing up, Expectations, and Mercy

As parents, we are striving to teach our kids right from wrong, virtue from vice, how to pursue the good, even when it is time-consuming, less comfortable, and downright hard. But how do we do this? And what sort of exceptions should we have for them?

If we expect our kids to clean up after themselves, wake up and go to bed on time, limit screen time, not be lazy around the house – we also need to follow these same rules. But most of the time we don’t.

A family friend recently passed away, and I was able to read her blog that she maintained before her death. She remarked that her son asked her for one last bit of advice for family life, and she told him: To help your children grow up, you must grow up. Simple, but profound words.

Continue reading “Growing up, Expectations, and Mercy”

Ode to Library Book Sales

Tables of books,

dusty and old

yet full of wonders,

treasures untold.

Will I find an old Bible?

Or Robinson Crusoe on his raft?

Or if I search really hard,

an entire set of the 1970’s ChildCraft.

For only one dollar-

I can’t believe my victory!

The 3-disk DVD collection,

of Anne of Avonlea!

Oh, Library book sales,

you have given me,

a home full of books,

and a heart of glee.

Many Saturday’s spent,

I could tell many tales,

of my favorite hobby,

Library Book Sales.

Review: The Star Of Kazan

My husband selected this book for me at our local library book sale. “I felt you would like it,” he remarked.

Indeed, I do. It is a young adult novel, and is not a complicated plot. A young orphan girl lives in Vienna, raised by two maids. As the story unravels, young Annika lives a contented life. She has friends, is loved and care for by her two adopted aunts, and loves her city and neighborhood.

I have a great love for books with a sense of place, and the descriptions of Vienna in the early 20th century had me deep in romantic nostalgia for a place I have never been.

The markets are full of freshly baked pastries and sweets, strongly brewed coffee, music and small cafes bustling with life. Ibottson’s descriptions of fish markets, butcher shops and the Spanish Riding School all help to draw the reader into the lovely landscape of European life.

Continue reading “Review: The Star Of Kazan”

Review: A Lantern In Her Hand

Book Review: A Lantern in her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich

I am a member of a delightful facebook group that discusses all things quality books and literature. My “to-be-read” list grew and grew after joining the group, but that is a delightful problem to have.

In a thread about books that have a “strong sense of place,” I came across A Lantern In her Hand. This novel centers around a young girl, Abby Deal, who sets aside a dream of becoming a singer, and forges ahead into pioneer life in Nebraska in the mid-1800s. Her life is one of adversity and hardship,  as is typical  in pioneer novel.  Yet this book stands apart from others because of its long view of Abby’s life, and particularly on her journey of motherhood.

Continue reading “Review: A Lantern In Her Hand”