Family Vacation At The Lake

We went to Lake Cascade for the 4th of July. This four day trip felt like we truly were getting away. Just under a two hour drive north of Boise you encounter the small town of Cascade. Don’t blink on the drive through town, you may miss it. It’s population is around 1,000 with a large influx during the summer of vacationers. The 4th of July is its busiest time of year, I believe. We rented a small cabin, put on our bathing suits and basked in the sun. Or maybe the truth is that we chased our kids around all weekend. Overall, we had a great time getting out of town and enjoying mother nature for a few days.

Being that we were headed outdoors I didn’t think we would need much. I was right and in the end we didn’t even wear everything we brought. I think each of us had clothing we didn’t wear. Truly, when I’m at a lake all I really need is a bathing suit, pair of board shorts, and a sundress. The only toys I took for the kids were some floaties for in the water-which we didn’t end up using-and a bucket and shovel. I did bring us all some reading material. In addition, all of our meals was prepared at the cabin so groceries are in the car, as well.

Here is a picture tour.

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Clothing for all four of us. (Piles from left to right: husband, daughter, son, kids pajamas, me, swimsuits. Not pictured: Each kid took a pair of flip-flops and my husband and I each took a pair of running shoes and flip-flops; I also threw in a pair of running shorts and shirt.)

Our toiletries. The smaller bag is medication for kid emergencies. I've learned this is unwise to leave behind.

Our toiletries. The smaller bag is medication for kid emergencies. I’ve learned this is unwise to leave behind.

Our suitcase. All four in a carry on suitcase.

Our suitcase. All four of us in a carry on.

Kids books.

Kids books.

My reading material.

My book.

My favorite sundress. (If you're really observant you will notice my flip flops were not in my original Project 333 items. I traded my multi-colored ones for solid black.)

My favorite sundress. (If you’re really observant you will notice my flip-flops were not in my original Project 333 items. I traded my multi-colored ones for solid black.)

Our van packed and ready to go. Did I mention we took our dog?

Our van packed and ready to go. Did I mention we took our dog? And we ended up putting the kids bikes in, too. A good last minute decision.

View from the road south of the Lake Cascade. You can see the lake in the distance.

View looking north from the road on the south side of Lake Cascade. You can see the lake in the distance.

View looking south. (I didn't get any lake pictures because lake + kids + camera = DANGER.)

View looking south.

My only shot of the lake. (I didn't get many pictures because lake + kids + camera = DANGER.)

My only shot of the lake. (I didn’t get many pictures because lake + kids + camera = DANGER.)

The lake was beautiful and the trip memorable. My daughter and I even got to go boating on the lake. A kind offer from a friend who was vacationing there, too. One of things I find funny is that, with the exception of food, we could have taken a two week trip and required the same amount of items. At the rate I was reading I didn’t need another book…let me try that again…At the rate I was tending to my children, I didn’t need another book!

 

 

The Flow of Paint

My mother is a creative being. I don’t mean in the way one’s mom makes ants on a log for a snack or uses a safety pin as a zipper. I mean in a ladybug costume making, Star Wars party throwing, Christmas advent calendar sewing, thank-you card watercoloring, scrapbook compiling, kind of way. She breathes technicolor and dreams in blank canvases.

As you can imagine in my formative years I was exposed to many interesting art projects. Paper making with a sieve, rug weaving, painting furniture, shrink art necklaces, and sewing outfits for teddy, to name a few. Despite the fact that my pores do not seep art like my mother’s, in me she has borne a mind of creativity. I think sometimes my mom believes she failed at teaching me about art because I lack her enviable ambition, her desire to learn new techniques, and take more classes. After all, she has an entire room in her house dedicated to this.

It is true that I possess probably less than 10% of her knowledge but beyond this fact she can be entirely confident that creativity flows within me. Lately however, with two kids to raise art work has been sorely neglected and when I look into my art room my heart is heavy. Colored pencils, paintbrushes, gouache, card stock paper, stickers, albums, it goes on and on. My recent goal of simplifying my life does not run parallel with my collection, plus, each time I attempt to tackle a project I’m paralyzed by the overwhelming possibilities of what to create. What I’m looking at is a complete perpendicular intersection of stagnant stuff and opportunity. One in which I decided I must choose a direction.

I recall a watercolor instructor once stating that she only uses a 1/2” width paintbrush and paints using only Prang watercolors. You know, the kind that kids use in art class. This artist travels all over the country teaching watercolor. Can it really be so simple?

My favorite part about ridding my life of the unessential is that my true passions become revealed. Whether it’s my closet or my kitchen amidst the piles and piles of possessions an unveiling of the soul occurs. When I cleared out my books recently I decided to pick ten which were most important to me and start there. Within the pile were two Spanish books. I haven’t spoken Spanish in years yet I couldn’t let go of either book. I realized the importance of my desire to conquer a second language.

After I finally sat down to clear out my art supplies here’s what I learned:

  1. No one needs 20 different colors of tags to use as embellishments for scrapbooking.
  2. Scrapbooking is not my passion.
  3. 21 coffee stirrers to use as smudging agents are unnecessary.
  4. Markers, pens, and paint, oh my.
  5. My passions are watercolor and calligraphy.

Watercolor and calligraphy supplies are what I preserved in my clean out. This purge has been difficult but at this point in my life my art isn’t as important as doing it with my children. I am thrilled when my daughter asks to paint and her smears of color can be proudly displayed on the refrigerator. My own art will come. That blood does not cease to flow it just changes direction.

I hope to pass on to my children at least a fraction of what my mother taught me and I pray that the paint between my fingers lasts into my years of wrinkled smiles and age spotted hands.

Thanks Mom.

Until Again

It was time to get dressed but this morning Nana lingered. Coffee cup full, uneaten breakfast. Without a word she pulled Granddaughter closer and lifted her to her lap. Sighs, hugs, I love you’s, kisses to cover a mountain. Neck, forehead, shoulder, toe.

Mother reminded Granddaughter it was time to go. Grandma and Granddaughter’s hands released, a magnetic force separated by a gentle tug. Grandson was next. Sighs, hugs, I love you’s, kisses to cover a valley. Cheek, elbow, nose, ankle.

Mother returned with a look of apologetic urgency. One last embrace of Grandson, this time a burst of bright red cherries. Buckled in car seats, Nana appeared at the doorway, bathrobe clenched in one hand and another outstretched.

A cheer squad of one, waving.

Engine on, down the driveway, waving, waving.

Nana in the driveway now, waving, waving, waving.

Gas pedal on, waving, waving, waving, waving,

as the car drove into the day.

Danish Cobbler

I’m like millions of other Americans when it comes to ethnicity and race. I check the box labeled “white.” White. What does that really mean? I don’t identify with a particular cultural group and growing up didn’t learn the unique traditions of a country or race.

My parents’ ancestors traveled across the Atlantic over a century ago, entered at Ellis Island, and officially became American. From here much of a persons cultural past became exactly that, the past. To many entering America at this time it was an opportunity to re-invent. A perfect clean slate and new start. I don’t know if that was the case with my family but I do know that the sense of identity associated with a culture faded. And now I am white and desperately cling to any small trail of a tradition that identifies me with that so foggy past.

What I do know is that I’m part Danish. The Danish comes from my mother’s side and one of the few traditions that prevailed were recipes. I would like to share our cobbler recipe with you as I think it could win awards. It’s traditionally made with olallieberries but many other fruits can be used. I made it tonight with peaches, raspberries, and blueberries. I enjoyed a warm bowl of the cobbler this evening and relished every bite. I hope you enjoy a sample of my family’s Danish past.

And by the way, it’s very easy to make!

Danish cobbler.

Danish cobbler.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Put 1/4 C to 1/2 C butter (however much you dare but the more you put the more flavorful) in bottom of a 9 x 11 baking dish and place in oven to melt while you prepare the recipe.

2. Toss 3-4 cups of berries (olallieberries, peaches, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, or any combo of the above) with a few tablespoons of sugar. Set aside.

3. In a bowl wisk together:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour

4. Remove baking dish from oven when butter is melted and pour in berries. Pour flour mixture over berries. DO NOT STIR.

5. Bake for 60 mins. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes.

Traditionally served as a Danish dish, cream would be poured over the cobbler. I prefer low-fat milk. Ice cream is also decadent.

Thank you to my mom for this recipe and for preserving a piece of our family’s history.

When I Must Leave You

Today my husband and daughter and the rest of his family are celebrating the life of his grandfather who passed away two weeks ago. I am not able to be there but am thinking and praying for everyone. Here is a beautiful poem I received after my grandfather’s passing. The words have stuck with me for years and I would like to share it with all of you. I hope that during a time of grieving in your life you can find comfort in these words as I have.

When I Must Leave You

When I must leave you for

a little while

Please do not grieve and shed

wild tears

And hug your sorrow to you

through the years

But start out bravely with

a gallant smile;

And for my sake and in my

name live on and do all things

the same, Feed not your loneliness

on empty days,

But fill each waking hour

in useful ways,

Reach out your hand in comfort

and in cheer

And I in turn will comfort you

and hold you near;

And never, never be

afraid to die,

For I am waiting for

you in the sky!

Stop The Glorification of Busy

This quote seems to be everywhere lately (I’m not sure of the origin) and has especially resonated with me after reading a book for book club called Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. It’s about a woman who is in a car accident and sustains a traumatic brain injury. Her life is turned upside down and her impairments force her to take a second look at her life and at what is truly important. Let me just say right off that I would recommend this book. Especially if you’ve ever wondered how a brain injury might affect someone.

I wouldn’t have chosen it to read. Not because it’s not a good story but because before my days of being a mom I worked on a brain injury team. As a speech therapist I saw this type of patient on a daily basis. Looking at this book on the shelf I would have said, “I already know the story.” I’ve seen first hand the often heartbreaking lasting effects of a brain injury. The sorrow of the individual, struggle of the family to push forward, and overwhelming difficulty of accepting that life will never be the same. But these people often find fulfillment in other unexpected areas of life. The author does an excellent job of portraying this.

Maybe the individual will never return to work full-time again or never return to work at all. Maybe they cannot ever drive or climb stairs. But perhaps through this time of dark despair other interests reveal themselves. Photography, painting, volunteering, or simply ambling through the park. Many of these patients are forced to slow down their lives and in doing so, discover what had been passing them by in all the chaos. Children, hobbies, vacations, date nights, old friends. Drinking of cup of coffee on the patio and watching the sunrise.

This book struck a chord with me and it took some time to figure out why. Sarah, the main character, goes from a hectic business woman with three kids and not a free minute in the day to needing assistance for something as simple as pulling up her pants. Since she is forced to slow down she becomes more aware of her own life. I don’t want to give away too much (it’s a quick read and worth it) but I will say that in reading this book I realized that my patients are the reason I’ve become so focused on being present in the moment of each day. Every day is a gift. A gift that we can spend frantically running from one task to the next or we can create a life around ourselves that uplifts, fulfills, and comforts. It is our choice.

An excerpt from the book:

Ever since business school, I’ve had my head down, barreling a thousand miles an hour, wearing the flesh of each day down to the bone, pointed down one road toward a single goal. A successful life…And then I crashed my car. For the first time in almost a decade, I stopped barreling a thousand miles an hour down a road. Everything stopped. And although much of the stillness of the past four months has been a painful and terrifying experience, it has given me a chance to lift my head up and have a look around.

And I’m starting to wonder. What else is there? Maybe success can be something else, and maybe there’s another way to get there.

I’ve always said that as a therapist my patients teach me lessons just as I teach them. Thank you to all the patients I’ve ever treated. I’m sorry for what happened to you. It’s not fair and I hope you can feel complete again. But know that you taught me to slow down and this has given me great fulfillment. I had no idea what an impression you left until reading this book.

 

Ducks!

The following is a short essay I wrote for a series called Simplicity In Action on a blog I’ve been following called Be More With Less. I’ve recently made great efforts to simplify and minimize the ‘stuff’ in my life. It’s hard work and constantly in progress. This story is more about taking in a simple moment but I hope to continue to post stories about how this concept has had a positive impact in my life. 

 

Most people say that having kids makes life more complicated. I disagree. Having children has given me the gift of recognizing and appreciating life’s simple moments.

One fall day in an attempt to get some exercise, I bundle up my two-year old daughter and three month old son and buckle them in the stroller. I leash the dog and begin walking hastily to get some calories burned. After we’ve walked for a while my daughter asks, “Mom, get out?” I look up. The sun is shining and the dog frolics in the trail beyond as we head in her direction. I would want to get out too, I think to myself. I decide to forego the extra calories and let her out of the stroller. She picks up a stick and examines it with scientific expertise. I pick one up, too, and draw a sun in the dirt. “Sun,” she says with exclamation. Then I draw a moon. “Moon,” she says with confidence. We share affirming glances and then some ducks are heard quacking from behind. “Ducks! Look mama!” as she points to the lake. I turn around and see her silhouette beaming in the sunlight. She turns and smiles at me and then runs further down the path. I close my eyes and drink in the moment of simple pleasure.

Beyond the love we give our children I think the most important skill we can offer them is patience. Patience to let them climb the stairs by themselves; patience to give them the control to pick out their own clothes; patience when they deliberately draw on the wall after multiple pleads for the construction paper.

Although much of our patience can be found in discipline or tiresome moments, such as waiting for the shoes to be tied, what it truly translates to is slowing down. A child’s pace of life is sometimes oh, so frustrating, but if we allow ourselves to slow down we can also capture precious opportunities for bonding and growth.

My father always says, “It’s the journey, not the destination.” Although I am not perfect, I strive to give my children the memories that are made through out a journey rather than a rush to the finish line. And this is the beauty of it all: they return that patience, that time, with simple moments of beauty that I will cherish in my heart forever. The gift of time is really the best gift of all.