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Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I have to admit, I felt a little bit uncomfortable leaving our car at the bottom of a 1 mile incline where the owner's nine year old boy picked us up in an RTV to  get to our tent which had no internet, cell phone or radio reception.... or air conditioning. Unless you count a stand fan as air conditioning!  (My kids thought it the coolest thing ever that a nine year old can drive anything, by the way.) 

Growing up in Africa camping is a national pastime.  Extreme camping that is.  I also know myself.  If my dad wanted to go anywhere I had my little checklist to review "Is there a flush toilet?  Scorpions or poisonous snakes?  Is there a bath house?  And no, a shower contained in a black plastic bag hanging from a tree limb does not count."  But we loved this getaway!  From the cool breezes blowing through the canvas netting all night while tiki torches flicker softly in the distance,

to the hour long endeavor to prepare a cup of coffee first thing in the morning while the kids chase daddy long legs around the fireplace,

to the late nights around a communal bonfire where we reflected on our lives munching on s'mores while the kids catch lizards in the creek.

Our hosts pulled together meals with such seamless effort every night while we were allowed to sip on our second glass of something. 

The air was filled with the sweet smell of grass and the scenery were so beautiful in the most natural of ways.  Here in the mountains people stop to say hi and extend a helping hand; inquisitively ask where you are from and dote on your kids like long lost family members.

I had a moment watching my girls strip their shoes; wading into a shallow, ice cold stream navigating slippery rocks at the bottom of a fast flowing waterfall.  It was so perfect.  Even if we only had this one moment to enjoy it would've been enough , because it was cherry picked right off my summer bucket list.  Right next to running barefoot and catching critters in the wild.

But there was so much more to do.  We spent one afternoon at the community center pool where we met John the volunteer fire fighter who is the local life guard and the occasional school bus driver.  He laughed so hard watching our girls, fearless and loud, not standing back one inch for the boys who joined us in the pool.  They had water fights that escalated into full out war without the nasty meltdowns and slid down the rocket fast slide like this is something they did every weekend.  Swallowing water every now and again was a given;  but lets face it that has never stopped them before!

We frequented the local creamery not once, but twice during our stay.  It had some of the best ice cream I've ever eaten.   It was also where all the locals hung out right next to the BBQ smokehouse, which made for a lot of interesting people watching.  We biked along the Yadkin river until we were hot and sweaty and then we headed back to the creamery.

This weekend I realized that you do not have to go a million miles to find a million dollar getaway.  And this getaway was a wonderful way for us to spend our Memorial Day weekend!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

End of School Year Thoughts

Friday was the last day my girls spent in kindergarten.  We had a grande graduation ceremony to attend and once I sat down in the sanctuary I felt so many emotions swirling around in my heart.  I felt sadness, relief and joy all mixed together in a hotchpotch of end of year jitters.

Once I saw Fudge's teacher breakdown in tears reading little messages written by our girls and boys to tell her just how much she meant to them, I had to walk away;  biting my lip until I got it together.  I had to squelch the great flood of emotions that welled up when she cried openly and honestly; shaking with raw emotion, while my daughter stood next to her with a big smile looking up at her teacher with love and a strength that I could not muster when she read her little note "What I liked best about Ms X's class was learning about God's creation."

I wish I could calmly have placed my arm around her and tell her everything will be OK, but I knew I would've sobbed alongside her; sensing the intensity of what she felt alongside mine.  I felt torn and wanted to understand and feel the gravity of it all.  I wanted to feel the pain.  It felt appropriate to question myself, to allow myself to feel lost and wondering, but I also expected myself to get up, take a breath and move forward.

So I hugged her and told her how much she meant to our girl Fudge, because she did.   It was the conclusion to a chapter in our girls' education and we are moving forward towards another.  If we decide to make changes I will allow for it to happen without judgement or regret.   We are not perfect, but I expect myself to do my best and to have faith in God while squarely focused on raising our girls the best we can.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Field Day

Today was a field day at school;  literally.  Never mind the fire ant that bit me!  It burned for five minutes at least by the way!  But the girls had a field day;  excuse the pun!

I think focusing our energy on providing our girls with a childhood similar to what hubby and I enjoyed growing up in Africa, is paying off.  I saw it firsthand today.

Did you know that most six year old kids attending this field day have never jumped rope before?  They've never thrown a frisbee or tried to hula hoop either!   Teachers were pointing at our girl Caramel and her hula hoop in awe saying "You should enter her into the school's talent show!  That is amazing!"

It is hard to believe but in this day and age it is pretty common.  Kids never learn to jump rope, roller skate or ride a bike because they are carpooled from swimming practice to taekwondo after school.  There is no time left for potato sack races.

We can be brainwashed into thinking our kids need to be exposed to as many opportunities as possible before reaching a certain age;  or is it more a case of us lavishing things on our kids for not being there as much as we would like to be, or is it because we think we are providing our kids with experiences that are imperative to their overall development?   And what impact do these things have on our children?  I've asked these questions myself while reading this book by Kim John Payne.

Try out a few things in this book.   I did not believe that it will make much of a difference but experienced changes I did not expect.  I learned more about myself than my kids implementing suggestions from this book.

Childhood is precious and fleeting.  We as parents should protect it as fiercely as we protect our children from getting in harms way.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Strawberry Treats


One of our favorite treats this time of year is strawberry shortcakes.  We even had some for breakfast.

And I tried something different making us some wonderful strawberry jam.  It's a great way to put those berries to use before it goes bad.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day Weekend

With fistfuls of flowers they came running inside the house this week.  "Happy Mothers Day, Mommy!"

They make my heart sing every day!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Picking Strawberries

Our winter has been very warm this year and the strawberry season has been in full swing for a few weeks already.  I nonchalantly suggested we go strawberry picking this weekend and I have not even finished my sentence yet, when they jumped to their feet asking insisting we go to the same farm we went to last year.  To be honest there was no room for negotiation.  "Please, please, please, please, please?  Can we pleeeeeeease go to the same farm?"

It made me realize that these random things we decide to do with our children in an effort to teach them more about the world around them, instantly becomes part of who they are.  And without even it being our intention it becomes part of the way we live our lives and the family traditions we relish year after year.

Once we got out of the car I felt a few droplets of soft rain fall on my skin.  "How funny, I thought to myself,  even the weather seems to be the same as last year!  Maybe just a tad more humid!"

We got three cardboard baskets, washed our hands and the girls gave hubby a quick rundown on the how-to's.  "Daddy, don't pick the ones with white or green at the ends!"  He smiled and nodded.  Then we were off to pick strawberries.

 Along the way the girls started talking with two first grade teachers.  They literally followed them around talking their ears off, but these poor ladies reassured us several times with lovely Southern drawls "We don't mind.  Your daughters are so precious!  We love talking to kids!"  And the conversation seemed to be quite entertaining, because I heard them laugh out loud several times!

We all got back to the car, hot and sweaty, but with three cardboard baskets filled to the top with sweet, delicious strawberries.  I was convinced we will never fill up the basket Fudge carried around, because she ate more than she ever placed inside it!   And no matter how many times we warned her she might get a stomach ache (wink, wink) she just gave us the "talk-to-the-hand-people" attitude!

You can really make a day of it visiting this farm as long as you bring a few sandwiches to enjoy at lunch time.  There are so much more to do.  We had some homemade ice cream;  the girls went for a spin around the farm in the cow train; we stopped over at the petting farm where they had the cutest little fuzzy ducklings and (I looked it up!) poults, commonly referred to as "baby turkeys" in our household, along with lots of rabbits, goats, ponies, donkeys and peacocks and finally the girls spent a good amount of time playing in Pappaw's playground.

Building these memories with our girls are now more important than ever to me.  They remember so much more than before and in my humble opinion THESE years are the most wonderful years we recall when reflecting on our own childhoods.  My wish is for them to think about these years with great fondness!

Friday, May 4, 2012

At The Edge of The Ocean

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in”                 

Rachel Carson

The Disappearance Of the Hermit Crab

I was driving the kids to school yesterday morning when great excitement broke out in the back seat.  They were holding a shell we picked up on Jekyll island, yelling loudly:  "Mommy,  there is a hermit crab inside the shell!"  a billion times.  But I of course wrote it off to their vivid imaginations because after all we did look inside the shell before taking it home to make sure it is unoccupied. 

Every other shell we picked up on Jekyll island had huge hermit crabs inside.  So we neatly put them right back down again.  We even picked up one small little shell and saw a baby crab blown across the sand from under it.  But this shell was empty; so we decided to take it home.

While waiting in carline the afternoon I wanted to check on the shell;  just in case.  I got out of the front seat; opened the back door;  leaned over; opened the console between their seats;  turned the shell over and..............saw a dust covered hermit crab sticking out.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeekkkk!   I almost immediately put it back down because I swore something was crawling over my foot and up the side of my leg.  Of course the moment they got inside the car they opened the console and continued studying it;  the difference being I now knew there was a hermit crab inside the shell!

"Mommy, it is moving!"

"Put it down, please!" I demanded while visions of the befuddled crab escaping the confines of the console and scuttling under the driver's seat, never to be found again, swam through my mind.

"We need a habitat for the hermit crab!" said Fudge.

"I will get some sand from the sandbox and figure out the rest once we get home."

"We can "goggle" the internet and see what we need to feed it!" said Caramel.

"Yes, we can GOOGLE the internet and see what we need!" I reiterated, thinking to self the internet did not even exist when I was six years old.

"What about crab food?" Caramel suggested.

"Yeah, crab food will do the trick!"  I said with a smile.

We got sand and a shell together and I went to get the crab from the car.  Once I was holding it over the sand (so I can drop it in a split second if needed) I shook it a little bit just to see if it was alive and the poor, shriveled up little crab fell out of the shell.

The disappearance of the hermit crab came to a solemn and abrupt end!  Any thoughts of adopting another pet evaporated like mist under the sun.  It was replaced with thoughts of the story he had to share with Saint Peter once he arrived at the pearly gates! I think it would've made some best seller list for sure.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Driftwood Beach

Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia

I'm-back-home Mindset

There is this period of time when I get back from traveling somewhere, I feel like doing nothing!  Bags and heaps of laundry will just lie out for a day (or two) before I do something about it!  I have to get back into my I'm-back-home mindset and until then I'm useless.  I cannot wrap my head around anything;  including any work to be done.   My favorite excuse is that I have to read through all my emails and it must take at least one whole day!

But then I get this burst of energy and go into "getting organized" overdrive and that is exactly what happened yesterday.  I emptied, washed, dried and rolled away everything in sight and we can finally get from the garage to the family room without falling over several pieces of luggage!  I pulled linens from beds and put new, soft and sweet smelling ones on;  opened all the windows to let wafts of fresh air blow through the house and made a home cooked meal while listening to some zen flute composition on the CD player in the great room.

And since I was not going to get any work done at work, I decided to do whatever else I felt like and watered wilted flowers and fruit trees and even pulled weeds oak tree saplings from our vegetable garden and built a mental to-do list of all the other pruning, weeding and cleanup that has to be done around the yard this weekend, while wandering from flower to flower and marveling at small little fruits showing up on the peach and pear trees.

We love to travel, explore and learn about the world around us, but it feels good to be back home and to the familiarity of it all.  The songbirds chirping away; sweet smelling gardenias lining our walkways; boats droning in the distance and big oak trees throwing peaceful spots of dark green shadows all over the backyard where we can hide from the blistering summer heat.  It fills my heart with contentment.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Heart To Heart With My Daughter

As I was crossing the great room picking up toys and sweaters strewn about I heard soft crying overhead.  I looked up and there she was hanging over the side of the catwalk; tears rolling down her cheeks.

"What is it sweetie?  Why are you crying?"  I said quite incredulous, because I swear we just read a wonderful bedtime story and hubby piggybacked her to bed and she was smiling and laughing all the way.

These moments happen without warning;  often when least expected.  It almost always catches me off guard, because I'm never prepared for the fact that my little girls are growing up much faster than I expect.  I wish I could slow it down;  sometimes stop it altogether.  And often I don't even know the answers myself and I scramble through thoughts and words looking for something smart and insightful to say. 


"Mommy, please don't ever leave me!  Please don't go to heaven!!  I don't want you to die!"  she said, now sobbing loudly.

My heart skipped a beat because I think most of us struggle with this one, even when we are old and all grown up.  "Honey, I am not going to leave until I'm old and grey!"  (I know.  Lets not get technical!  I'm speaking with a girl that turned six years old last week.)

"How old was great grandmother when she died?"

"She was more than 90 years old!"  I blurted out.

"But I'm scared!  I don't want to lose you!"

"Fudge, by the time you are fifteen you probably will be wishing I was not around!"  I said in an attempt to lighten up the conversation.

"That will never happen!!  I want you to stay with me until I'm sixty years old!!" she protested vehemently.

"I will not leave until you tell me to, OK?  I will be walking around with my rickety old cane squawking at you all day, until you  tell me to get out!"  And for special effect I walked around squawking and bent over with a pretend cane shaking back and forth.  That at least brought a faint smile to her face.

After a few more of these exchanges I realized that this was one of those times I really have to have a heart to heart with my children.  So as I got settled in between them; I took a deep breath and told them what I've learned the hard way.

"We have to have faith, girls.  Living your life worried and afraid of all the "what if's!" is not the way God wish for us to live our lives.  We all have some fears and concerns, but we should not let these overtake our thoughts and lives.  It can make our bodies sick and deprive us of living full, happy and exciting lives!  We have to lay these worries and fears down and choose faith, hope and love to envelope our hearts, so we can truly live and be alive.

Nothing has ever been accomplished with fear and worry.   Still, I sometimes feel worried too, but we have to have courage and believe everything will be OK!  And besides, you are not going to get rid of me that easily!"

"Are you really going to walk around with a cane when you are old?" my other daughter asked.

"Well,  maybe I will get one of those 4X4's with the wheels!   It might be a little easier to move around!"  I said, grateful to see the light returning to Fudge's eyes.