Category Archives: family

Where We Begin Our Summer Adventures

Summer! It’s so hard to believe that summer is almost over and the school year will begin soon. We have been traveling all over the country in our minivan, with lots of road trips adding miles to the odometer. Our first trip was out west, to visit my family in Des Moines, Iowa during Memorial Day weekend.

We have visited my family so often in Iowa that I thought we had done nearly everything near the Des Moines area. We’ve looked for bison at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Preserve, biked the High Trestle Trail, and walked along the Des Moines River in downtown Des Moines. Lily has fed the giraffes at Blank Park Zoo and we even took a paddle boat onto Gray’s Lake. And yet, when my dad mentioned visiting Ledges State Park, this was the first time I had even heard about it!

Our plan had been to go on Saturday, but unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with our plans and it rained almost all day. Sunday was a beautiful day and perfect hiking weather; unfortunately my dad had to preach that Sunday and my stepmom had to play the organ at church. (Let’s just say I’m looking forward to my 75 year old dad retiring soon!)  Since Ed, the girls and I had attended church Saturday evening, we headed up to Ledges on Sunday morning.

Part of the road leading to the park had been washed away by a storm, so along with other visitors to the park, we needed to park in the parking lot at the entrance and then hike down the road into the canyon. There is also a parking lot on the other side of the park for visitors who would rather not hike down into the canyon. The road down, however, was a short and easy hike, and while the road wasn’t safe for cars, it was very safe for walkers. When we reached the bottom of the canyon and saw the water from Pea’s Creek flowing intentionally over the path, the girls were ecstatic! They love wading in the water!

The creek curved around throughout the park, crossing the path several times. There were also a couple of nice bridges going over the creek and steps going up to trails on the top of the bluffs. With only 4 miles of hiking trails, the park is relatively small and easy to explore, especially with kids. I’ve been looking at the trail map while writing this post, however, and I see we missed a trail down to the Lost Lake. The trail head is is a different spot from the main trails, so perhaps that’s why it’s called “Lost Lake.” We certainly didn’t find it!

This arched stone bridge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.

After we hiked up and down the bluffs, we saw people wading up the creek and decided to do the same! We weren’t prepared for this part, however, and took off our shoes and socks. The creek had some sandy spots but was also rocky, so next time we’ll bring our water sandals! Hiking in the creek was really fun and showed us more of the bluffs from down below. Since this park is often flooded by the Des Moines River, however, it may not always be possible. The water was only up to our ankles when we were there in May.

Hiking up and down the bluffs was great practice for our next road trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. And it also made us hungry! We knew of a barbecue place in Ames that my stepmom had taken us to, but here was the challenge. We didn’t remember the name of the restaurant, and we didn’t know what street it was on. (And we don’t use our smart phones when we’re roaming!) But we figured, what’s the worst that could happen? So we drove to Ames and wandered around for a little while…and just as we were heading back to the highway, we found it! Hickory Park has great barbecue, and even more exciting to the girl, a candy counter! The candy ranges in price from a nickel to a quarter, so the girls had fun picking and choosing some candy for the road trip home.

Just a few weeks later, we got in our minivan again and headed East…to Maine!

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3 Ways to Stay Young

Every time when I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer
The past is gone
It went by, like dusk to dawn

I rarely drink from a straw, in fear of creating lines around my pursed lips. Lines that lipstick can bleed through, even though I’m not much of a lipstick wearer. Lines that will betray my age. But if I’m afraid of straws, will that mean I have to stop whistling as well? I bought wrinkle cream for the lines radiating from my eyes. They say that age is just a number, and my number is approaching 50. Grey hairs are slowly appearing, drawing fine lines in my mousey blond hair. Should I hide them with color or wear them proudly?

I started writing this post back in February, when I was thinking about my birthday. When I turned 47, I was celebrating a special anniversary–20 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Ed and I trained and raised money to be able to walk 39 miles in the Avon Walk to End Breast Cancer. I was so excited about participating in that walk with Ed that 47 didn’t feel that old to me. This year, I turned 48; only two years until I turn 50. Ugh! Usually numbers don’t bother me, but I’ll be honest; this year’s number bothered me! It doesn’t help that many of my friends, parents of my children’s friends, are lamenting their upcoming 40th birthday! When I turned 40, I had a 4 year old, and an 17 month old baby with an ear infection. I was way too tired to even care about turning 40! (How do I remember? I wrote it down on my blog!)

My kids are older now, and so am I! I’m actually much less tired than I was back then. Raising my kids has been so fun, and they keep me young, along with these three things.

3 Ways to Stay Young
1. Learn Something New

As a 40-something, I took downhill ski lessons, which I do not recommend. If you are going to learn how to ski, do it when you are young and stupid, therefore not afraid of heights or going fast or falling and breaking your leg. There is nothing better to keep you young than to scare yourself to death. On second thought, maybe ski lessons aged me instead of keeping me young! So I went in the opposite direction and learned how to knit in my 40’s, which is a very low key and non-risky activity. Now I am part of a knitting group with some nice retired women. That will be much better for my heart!

How does this keep me young? Seriously, though, I love learning new things, including downhill skiing. It really gave me a sense of accomplishment. Learning new things stimulates your brain and helps memory functions. I don’t know about you, but I need help with memory! Where did I put my car keys again?

2. Volunteer

Okay, so I probably volunteer too much. On Wednesday, I baked 22 potatoes for a Lenten dinner. They barely fit in my oven all at one time! Most of my volunteering is at my church and at both my daughters’ schools. Volunteering is a great way to get perspective on age! When I was teaching Sunday school, somehow the subject of Jesus’ second coming came up. I talked about how Jesus was going to come down to Earth and take us up to heaven to live with Him, and how happy we would be. Well, one fifth grade boy did not look so happy. “You mean we’re going to DIE?!?” he exclaimed. “I’m just a kid! I have things I want to do!” So I tried my best to console him and said I didn’t think the second coming was imminent, which was a little tricky as a Sunday school teacher.

Recently I also volunteered at a high school for a show choir competition. Lily was competing in her middle school choir (they sang the song at the beginning of this post), and I’ve never volunteered at the high school level before. It was fun to talk with parents who have older kids than I do; I was able to help out while they went and saw their older kids perform since Lily had already performed the night before.

How does this help keep me young? Volunteering gives you a different perspective, whether it’s caring for old or young people, feeding the hungry, or just volunteering with people different from you. Plus, you feel good after helping others! When my kids are older and I’m not needed at their schools, I hope to volunteer at a hospital or library.

3. Traveling to a new places

Oh, you know this is Ed’s favorite thing to do! Well, somehow he hooked me on traveling too. We had so much fun driving to Yellowstone National Park last summer and visiting a lot of different towns and states. I just booked a trip to Maine, a new state for me! I’m so excited about our summer plans!

How does this help keep me young? The anticipation and excitement of traveling to a new place keeps me feeling young!

What helps keep you young? Let me know in the comments!

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Sister, Sister, Brother, Sister

One of the things I enjoy most about Thanksgiving is seeing my sisters and my brother. This year, I saw all my siblings, but at different times. After we eat a large Thanksgiving dinner at my sister-in-law’s house, we have started the tradition of going bowling. My brother joins us for a few games. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of us bowling.

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My youngest sister spent Thanksgiving with her husband’s family, and then she came up to see us. We went out to eat BBQ at a place called Smokey Bones.

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My sister from California stayed at my house for the whole week! Today we took a long walk, and we also took some selfies.

A couple of years ago, we took this picture in the forest preserve. It’s still one of my favorites!

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; a Parent Review

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Yes, we went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, even though it is rated PG-13. Ed and I don’t let Lily and Emmy watch PG-13 rated movies, but we made an exception with Star Wars last Christmas, and made another exception this weekend (perhaps because I really wanted to see this movie myself). What did I think? Well, it’s a mixed bag.

First of all, I didn’t realize that this movie isn’t adapted from a book. J.K. Rowling wrote the 41 page Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them for a charity, and it is a “textbook” that Harry Potter used at Hogwarts. As I was reading an article on USA Today about the movie, I realized that yes, I am your parent that has this book in the basement, as a caption of a photo explains. I bought it, along with Quidditch Through the Ages, from Scholastic Book Club when I was teaching second grade many years ago. While I was a avid Harry Potter reader and read all the books as they were published, I didn’t have any interest in reading these little side books. The actual story of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is only available as a screenplay and is not a novel.

Since I read the Harry Potter books so long ago and have only seen the first three movies (Lily wants to read each book before seeing them), I am happy to report that you do not have to read the Harry Potter books to understand what is happening in this movie. The Harry Potter references are there but not critical. Lily reports that the spells were familiar and Dumbledore is mentioned once. Grindelwald is an important name in the movie; unfortunately I didn’t remember who he was since he has a minor role in the books, but it didn’t spoil my understanding of what was happening.

So, should you take your kids to see this movie? The beasts themselves actually were fantastic, and it was fun to watch them all interact with the main character, Newt. Some beasts escape from Newt’s magical suitcase, and Newt needs to recapture them. That alone would have been enough of a plot for me, but there was also a much darker plot woven into the script. The story line included fantasy violence and death which I was uncomfortable with, and frankly, was unnecessary. The ending was very ominous and would also be hard for younger children to understand. I think my 9 and 12 year old girls were okay with it, but I’m glad they aren’t younger.

The characters in this movie, however, were an absolute delight. I enjoyed “getting to know” the four main characters: Newt, Tina, Queenie, and Jacob Kowalski. Katherine Waterston, the actor that played Tina, reminded me so much of Maura Tierney, especially when she had a little mustard on her lip from eating a hot dog! However, I couldn’t find any connection between them, except for an adorable picture of Maura Tierney attending the movie’s premiere. It must have been just my imagination.

Overall, it was a fun movie, but if you are hesitant to take your kids to see it, I would recommend either seeing it yourself first or waiting until it comes out on DVD. If you have seen it, what did you think about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?

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A Simple Piece of Cloth

It’s just a simple piece of cloth folded into a triangle. And yet, as I watched the representatives from the military unfold the American flag, it was so much more than a piece of cloth. Unfolded, held firmly, crisply, by its four corners and tilted it so we could see the stars and stripes. Our flag, held up in honor and memory of one who had served in the Army during the Korean conflict.

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You may remember me telling you that Ed’s dad died at the end of September. We had a memorial service a few days later, but his ashes weren’t ready yet. Today, we buried my father-in-law next to his wife, right where he wanted to be.

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As I drove him to one of his radiation treatments, we talked about his wife, Virginia. He said he was going to ask her, when he saw her in heaven, if they had a good marriage. I told him that she would say yes. She was a wonderful mother-in-law, and I always wished I had the chance to know her more.

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The service at the graveside was short. There were tears and also smiles. We felt we had already said goodbye to a good man, and yet we were honoring him again today for serving his country.

That simple piece of cloth was folded up again, precisely, into a neat triangle. It was presented to my sister-in-law with words acknowledging her father’s service to our country.

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