Solar Eclipse

Are you and your family excited about the upcoming eclipse?

Living in the Pacific NW, we know many families who will be making the trek to see the eclipse as it passes through Oregon. There is a lot of excitement, with talk of the upcoming eclipse on the news almost daily.

My family will not be making the trek. We were fortunate to have a lot of time hiking in the National Parks in July and need to stay put for the time being — though we did pick up some “Eclipse Shades” while we were there, and are looking forward to seeing a partial eclipse from where we live.

My boys asked me what the big deal was about the eclipse. “Why do so many people want to see it?” one asked. “Its rare, the moon will cross in front of the sun’s path and we won’t see the sun for a while” I explained. “The last total solar eclipse that went across the US happened when your mom was a kid.” That caught their attention. “Will we be able to see any of it?” my other son asked. “They say we’ll see a partial eclipse from here,” I shared. That seemed to satisfy them.

We don’t often get excited about seeing the sun and take it for granted. The eclipse has reminded my sons of the sun’s importance and even peaked their scientific minds in better understanding how our solar system works. It’s peaked my curiosity too. I don’t recall anyone making a big deal about the eclipse when I was a kid, and don’t remember making any effort to see it. I will make the effort this time.

Will your family be taking in the eclipse? Are you traveling to see the full eclipse or staying put?

Let’s Go Camping

When you think of summer what comes to mind? Playing on a Slip ‘n Slide, spending lots of time in the pool, going swimming in a lake, fishing, making homemade ice cream or something else?

My boys and I have never camped in the summer, but that’s going to change this year. We’ve camped before (see blogs on our camping trips in the past) but also in cooler months. I can remember camping as a kid and it was almost always in the summer months. Memories of bugs, relentless heat, and sweat come to mind. It’s probably why I’ve avoided it up to this point. Instead of doing traditional camping (and by that, I mean getting in the car and driving to a camping site) we’re going to camp in our own backyard. I realize this isn’t a unique idea, but it’s a first for us. Not having to drive anywhere and still being able to use all of your camping gear is appealing. And if the bugs bite, we’ve got a quick escape (either come inside or I can run to the store and pick up some bug spray). I know, I know…what fun is it, if you don’t have all the hardships that can come with a good old fashioned camping trip? Lots, I’d say. My boys are really excited about the backyard campout, and can’t wait to figure out how to convert of backyard so it is more ‘camp-like’ (I can’t wait to see what they come up with).

I’m reminded of my own upbringing and how the simple things: watching (and sometimes catching) lightning bugs, running through the sprinkler, going to a BBQ and just relaxing with people I loved holds a special place in my heart. These things were fun, relaxing, and created a moment that forced me to pause to appreciate how good it felt to be right where I was, without a care in the world.

When have you experienced those moments? How are you and your family enjoying the summer?

 

Spring Chicken

What are your favorite Easter traditions?

I love everything about Easter: the time of year, the colors and blooms; Easter Egg hunts; family time and all that goes with the holiday. What’s funny is that Easter really did spring (or should I say sneak?) up on me this year. With a work schedule that has been abnormally busy, plus traveling, plus working through a bad cold, I noticed I almost let Easter get away from me. Half the joy, in my opinion, is the planning and getting ready for the day.

I may no longer be a Spring chicken, but I feel like a kid at heart. And while I won’t actually hunt the eggs myself on Easter, I sure will enjoy hiding them and watching the kids find them. It’s joy and happiness that comes from being together–I don’t think that gets old at any age.

How are you taping into your inner-child this Easter season? What helps keep you a Spring chicken?

Relax and Rest, Repeat

How are you relaxing this summer? Have you been able to get away on vacation, or find some ways to rest at home?

The school year always feels like a busy time. There is always something to plan for, something to remember to have your child bring, or not bring. It seems like you always have to be somewhere (and you have to remember where, because it changes). And there are always lots of activities: after school activities, homework, etc. It’s enough to make anyone long for the summer break. But summers don’t seem as relaxing as I remember them.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for the summer and the time off. Summer meant swim team practice, riding bikes with my friends in the neighbor and playing at each other’s house. Summer took on a different meeting when I entered the workforce. The long stretches of time off went away and were replaced with 8+ hours/day of work with an occasional vacation day sprinkled in.

As a parent, there never seems to be enough time off. There are the demands of the job, and getting your child to where they need to be (camps, friends, etc.). Taking time off to spend it together as a family is something we do each summer: taking a trip to visit family and seeing different parts of the country. There never seem to be enough vacation days or time to do all the things we’d like to do. And there never seems like there is enough time to rest.

I was reminded by the directions on a shampoo bottle, that I might need to re-tweak my formula for how to spend my time during the summer. The shampoo direction said, “Lather. Rinse. Repeat.” I thought, they are onto something here…it’s simple to follow and yields results. My new phrase for how I spend my summer time is: Rest. Relax. Repeat. It will take some effort on my part, but the summer is a great time to enjoy the good things going on in your life: the warm weather, your family’s health and all the great adventures we can have at home and wherever we spend our time off.

How will you spend your summer? How do you rest and relax during this time of the year?

Speaking of resting…I’ll be taking a break from writing for the next few weeks and will return following the Labor Day weekend. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Sum-Sum-Summertime

We have officially entered summertime. School is out, the weather is warming and thoughts of vacation are top of mind. There is a lot to look forward to.

I heard Surfing U.S.A. by the Beach Boys playing on television this past week. It took me back to my childhood, reminding me of all the memorable songs I associated with summer vacation and enjoyed during the summer months. The images it brought up were so vivid, and good:  BBQs, fireworks, trips (camping, or traveling by car or air) to spend time with family and friends. The memories remain strong, much like Christmas or holiday memories, I crave to have new memories as good as the past, maybe even better. But there’s no guarantee of that, and all I can do is look for the opportunities to enjoy the summer and actually enjoy them.

It shouldn’t be so hard, especially if I’m humming or singing a little tune. Summertime, summertime, sum-sum-summertime, summertime.

How do you plan to enjoy the summer with you family?

The Waiting Game

Most of us have been on family vacations that include a long period of time in the car. It never fails at some point during the trip, the kids get restless, the distractions no longer distract, and the noise volume increases. It was this way when I was a kid, and it’s the way it is now with my own kids. When we reach this point, whoever notices it first will call for “The Quiet Game.” I think many of us have invoked the Quiet Game in this situation–where everyone gets quiet, and the last person to speak (or in some cases make any kind of sound) wins the game.

We were recently on a road trip that required us to get on a ferry with our car. We left the house early in hopes that we’d make it in time to get on the earlier ferry. After waiting in line for almost two hours, we learned that we were seven cars too late and we’d have to wait another five hours for the next ferry. It was a bit deflating, but we were prepared to wait it out. We were also preparing ourselves for playing the Quiet Game…we feared we might have to play it multiple times throughout our wait.

We went to a nearby cafe to get some food and drinks to help us get through the long hours, and noticed there was a beach just down the hill from where we were parked. We ventured down to take a closer look, thinking we could kill 30 minutes to an hour down there. Instead, we found there was a beach trail, that included a broad walk and separate paved path for several miles. Since we had such a long wait, we had plenty of time to explore.

My youngest son and I went first, we took our time on the path, noticing the sea life, the way the boardwalk turned and curved, and other wonders of nature along the way (a caterpillar eating a leaf, a large stump washed up on the shore, little pinecones on the ground). I was very present in the moment with my son. It was relaxing and we enjoyed each others company. When we got back to the car, we still had a few more hours to get through. My husband and our older son decided they would check out the path based on our experience. My younger son wanted to work on an activity book, and then when my older son returned they decided to watch a movie on the DVD player we had brought “just in case.”

When we got onto the ferry, my husband and I discussed how pleasant the long wait had been. No Quiet Game, no fussing, nothing negative. It had been time well spent. We had found ways to occupy ourselves and created some new memories at a ferry terminal. Not something I expected to do.

I will look a waiting differently in the future. It may include the Quiet Game, but it also provides me with the opportunity to be present with my kids and to find the joy in our surroundings whatever they might be.

What is your favorite game to play on road trips? What helps make the time pass more quickly or pleasantly?

Let’s Have an Adventure

What family vacations come to mind from your childhood?  Road trips? Camping? Visiting friends or family?

As a child, my family was a ‘road trip’ kind of family. We drove everywhere, regardless of the distance. Our trips were educational. We saw a lot, learned a lot, and after a while, got on each other’s nerves a lot. But we enjoyed the experience together and have many great memories as a result. As a young adult, I often felt like many of our family vacations were FFF – Forced Family Fun, but in reality, they were an adventure.

An adventure is defined as an exciting or remarkable experience. I can remember getting ready for our trips, packing our suitcases, and thinking about the games we’d play in the car. It was exciting, we were going to see and do something new. Even if we were going to see our relatives or go to a new place, our road trips were never quite the same.

This summer, we have planned many adventures for our family. There will be camping, long drives, and lots of time together. My husband and I can’t wait. The kids seem excited too. I wonder if they’ll think back and have fond memories of our time together, or if they’ll think of these trips as Forced Family Fun.

We are building memories, and I’m treasuring each one. To see my sons faces once we get to our destination, to see them enjoying finding bugs in the outdoors, roasting marshmallows over the campfire, watching waterfalls in awe, or seeing their joy as they jump into a pool, I’m not sure being a parent gets much better than these moments.

What adventures do you have planned for this year?

Hallelujah!

Are you taking time off during the holidays this year?  If so, how are you planning to relax? Really relax where you aren’t on a schedule, aren’t in charge of something or someone and are able to not have a care in the world about what happened next or when? For me, it’s been seven years since I took a vacation like this, before I had my children.

Vacation is defined as:

  1. A respite or a time of respite from something: intermission
  2. A scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended <a period of exemption from work granted to an employee>
  3. A period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation <had a restful vacation at the beach>
  4. An act or an instance of vacating

I grew up in a family where vacation meant taking a road trip. Our vacations were educational with a lot of adventure and exploration. We would drive from point A to point B, sometimes going eight + hours at a time, sightseeing the next day or two, then get back in the car and drive to the next endpoint and repeat. I learned a lot of these vacations about our country gaining an appreciation for its history, the geography and false advertising. My sisters and I once convinced our parents that we had to stay at a themed hotel that was advertised for hundreds of miles away only to be disappointed when the hotel didn’t quite live up to what we thought it would be – darn billboards!

What I didn’t learn on these vacations was how to relax. I cannot recall a single vacation where we were just laid by the pool or the beach. I cannot recall a single vacation that wasn’t meticulously mapped out or timed. I cannot recall ever feeling bored on vacation.  Basically I don’t have a lot of practice relaxing.

My parents were teachers taking every opportunity to teach us at home and on the road. I really appreciate what they did for my sisters and I, and want to make sure I make the most of every opportunity I have to teach my children through experience too. I also realize that I want to teach my children how to relax and re-energize. I want my boys to know the difference between going to a new place and relaxing (e.g., just because you do one, doesn’t mean you are necessarily doing the other). But first, I have to learn to really relax when I take a vacation myself.

I blogged earlier this year about “Where Did My Vacation Go?” and committed to not repeat that again this year. I’m taking time away from all work, including blogging, through the end of the year. I currently don’t have any to-do list I need to complete while I’m on break. Hallelujah! I want to see what that looks and feels like, and see if I can really relax and re-charge.  I need the experience. I owe it to myself, and more importantly to my kids if I plan to teach them how to do it.

If you have vacation coming up, how do you plan to relax and recharge?

I wish each of you the happiest of holidays and look forward to picking up our conversation in the New Year.

Ca-Click

How do you feel when you have a special moment in your life?  A moment that you can recognize as special while it’s happening, that you want to remember for as long as you’re able?  For me, I try to be still, to take it all in and take a mental picture, attempting to remember every detail from what I can see visually, and also what I feel emotionally. Ca-click.

I have a surplus of these memories from my childhood—BBQs at a neighbors’ house, relatives or friends visiting from out of town, road trips to new places. Luckily I was able to add to my mental memory scrapbook just this past Memorial Day weekend. My husband, two boys and I headed out of town for the long weekend. My husband and I were somewhat adventurous with our plans for the family—camping one night, hiking the next day, visiting a museum, and finishing up with another hike on the final day.  We wanted the children to have a new experience, something that they will hopefully remember for a long time.

I have to admit, I was preparing myself for the trip to not be 100% enjoyable. We’d never camped with the kids and we honestly didn’t know how they would do. We’d hiked with them before but only briefly; we’d never done an hours-long hike like the one we were planning. We knew the museum would go over well because we had been there before and know it has a fantastic children’s playground. Still the fact remained that there was a considerable variety of things that could go awry. What my husband and I agreed on was to be very flexible (much more so than we normally are) and to be prepared for the worst.

Lo and behold, there was an unexpected storm–thunder and lightning included–that hit during our night of camping. Thankfully it only momentarily dampened the picture-perfect trip we hoped for; it quickly passed and the trip was all uphill from there. In the end it was a huge success. There were many times my husband and I looked at each other knowing just how special it was. We were enjoying our trip, and more importantly enjoying each other.

The children hiked 4 ½ miles the day following our night of camping.  The waterfalls along the trail were amazing; they were going at full blast. Our oldest son saw us taking pictures and asked if he could take one. He hadn’t tried out a camera before.  He snapped one picture, then another. You could see the delight on his face at his accomplishment. It was almost like he knew he would remember this trip as much by the picture as the mental memory that had just taken form. Ca-click.