Tag Archives: family

Have Kids, Will…Make a Fort (No Boys Allowed)

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Having a space of my own became an urgent priority a few years ago.  As the only female in my household for the past 20 years, I’ve desperately yearned for a place to call my own.  Our sweet little, old farmhouse only has one bathroom upstairs that we ALL share (go ahead, ladies, gasp!).  So while I’ve semi-patiently tolerated all sorts of bathroom issues that come with five males peeing all over the one toilet that I, too, have to use, I hit a breaking point when I was trying to work/write from home.  Having a home-based business has many upsides, but too many distractions for this lady to function well.

Much too long after man-caves became a “thing,” women have now been allowed the same accommodation… a little escape from the shared household spaces.  It never did seem fair that the fun, casual drinking spaces were reserved for the guys–a space that didn’t need to be cleaned very well or used to entertain guests other than more guys who also sought refuge from those damned feminized rooms within the home.  I like drinking and relaxing as much as the next guy (or gal) but I needed a space that didn’t require me to look around and think, “Oh, so-and-so didn’t put his laundry away.  I’ll just do that before I get to this article.”  Or, “Gosh, those dirty dishes in the sink are going to stink if I don’t load the dishwasher before I work on this floor plan.  Better take care of that.”

Obviously, if we’re only working with one upstairs bath we also don’t have a spare room to use as an office.  Eventually, I was able to wrestle this space above my garage into my own private fort.  Or, as one of the boys calls it, my tree house.  We painted the whole thing glossy white to maximize the light that comes through the fabulous round window that a client couldn’t use.  Then, I found these great light fixtures from Cedar and Moss, a lighting company in Oregon.  They’re way cool and great quality!

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Even though the furniture is all upcycled, repurposed, and second-hand, it came together nicely to provide a very comfy mom-cave work space that I absolutely love.  And it has a bathroom!

 

 

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Have Kids, Will…Turn the Big 4-0!

I’ve put off writing this post since celebrating my birthday two months ago.  I wanted to give it some thought.  I wanted to marinate in being 40.

Leading up to this age, turning 40 seemed like SUCH. A. BIG. DEAL.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t.  It’s an age I’ve been almost looking forward to.  It’s solid without being weighty.  It’s mature without being old.  It’s middle-age.  But isn’t that the best part of a jelly doughnut: the middle?

To kiss my youth goodbye is a little sad, but the riches I’ve gained through experience and meaningful relationships is what makes getting older golden.  I love my family with a ferocity that I never knew existed until I had kids.  I love and respect my friends for all their differences, their strengths and weaknesses,  their struggles and successes, and their willingness to love me back.

I can’t really write about turning 40, or aging in general, without acknowledging some of the things my girlfriends have said since sliding (tripping?) into middle age, things they never would have uttered at 20:

  • “Is there a bar in this strip mall?”
  • “We need to find a bathroom!  Now!
  •  “I might have to go into that Five & Dime and buy some pants in case I pee mine!”
  • “My butt cheeks are sagging.  I need lifts everywhere.”
  • “Is anyone else finding gray pubic hairs?”
  • “It’s 11 o’clock.  Let’s get a drink now and take a nap later.”

So, in appreciation for all the humor, joy, kindness, and love that are yet to be enjoyed…Cheers!  Here’s to turning 40!  I’m happy to be in the middle of my story because, God willing, I’m just getting to the good part.

 

 

 

Have Kids, Will…Enjoy a Winery (With Kids!)

 

For as much as I love exploring new places on my own, especially those that offer something wonderfully adult (like wine and no whining), I do love to do things with my family.  It gets harder and harder to convince my two teenagers that our togetherness is important and time well spent.  They don’t buy it.

We were recently invited to a local winery that’s beginning to expand and offer fun events, like 5k races and paint nights.  Knowing it welcomes families, I made sure we all showed up.  The older two drove separately–just in case.

What a nice surprise to find a water slide!  And a playground!  And live music in a barn!  And picnic tables under tents!  I was in heaven!  Where were my children?

Seeing there were no other teenagers, my two darling, pubescent beasts sat in the bed of their pickup truck, likely grumbling about the lame family outing mom forced them into.  Again.  Perched in the back of my minivan, the younger two were raiding the contents of the cooler: fresh baguettes, cheese and prosciutto.  WTF?

Rather than forfeiting my own enjoyment, I let the big boys go home and sent the little boys out to the water slide.  We had a ball!  The wine was fantastic, the bluegrass  music was awesome, and we could relax with our friends, surrounded by the vineyard.  As the sun went down after a gloriously warm day, the kids were running up and down the lush rows of expertly trellised vines, playing a game of tag.

Of course, the water slide that had seemed like such a wonderful feature earlier, left me with two kids that looked like this:

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I won’t complain.

 

Have Kids, Will…Climb Trees

Earlier last month, I felt the urge for a change of scenery and sought a place to take my family for the weekend.  Loving all things related to food,  I found a food truck festival that was taking place in the Poconos of Pennsylvania.  In fact, it was the inaugural Pocono Food Truck Festival at Shawnee Mountain Resort.  The idea of eating a variety of delicacies out in the crisp mountain air turned into a fun-filled weekend of so much more.

The festival offered about 15 different types of food that ranged from tacos to Pad Thai to authentic Belgian waffles (my favorite).  As far as festivals go, it was small, but a lot of fun for the afternoon.  They also hosted a motor cross show, which was something new to me.  With heavy metal music blaring, two young guys on dirt bikes launched themselves into the air from a huge, inflatable ramp, and defied gravity by doing tricks with their bodies, then landing on the other half of the ramp.  It was amazing!

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Naturally, my boys were in awe…especially when one of the performers announced he was going to do the “stripper pose” while in the air.  Imaginations were on fire, I’m sure.

Another activity offered was a monster truck ride along the slope side of the mountain.   I embraced my inner redneck as we climbed into the huge beast of a truck.   The ride was bumpy and bouncy, and included an insane number of  donuts.  It was a lot of fun, but I got out of it feeling a little like I had been on one of the time machine rides at a carnival…nauseous and giddy at the same time.

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When I had been online to purchase the tickets for this festival, I had also signed myself up for a little 5K that was being held at Shawnee Mountain.  Apparently, it’s an annual run that normally takes place in the small town of Barrett, PA, but because Eric Frein (the cop killing survivalist) was still on the loose, the race was moved to Shawnee.  I ran that on Sunday morning, hoping to burn off a small portion of the 50,000 calories I had ingested the day before.  It was an okay little race, despite the cold morning and double loop course through the parking lot.  What can I say, I’m a wimp about the weather and I like good scenery.  I did get a nice scarecrow shirt, though, and I do understand the situation was not ideal with a crazy man lurking in the woods nearby.

But, for the piece de resistance, we went to the Pocono TreeVentures ropes course and zip line headquarters.  This place was incredible!  For a family of six, whose children range in age from 7 to 17, it was the best!  There are very few places that can accommodate all of our ages and stages at one time, in one place.  This did.  We all enjoyed the whole process of harnessing and unharnessing to get ourselves across the canopy layer of trees, which were dressed in all their glorious fall colors.

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For the record, I am not a fan of heights and have an unreasonable fear of falling.  However, the security of the harnesses really helped to quell my fears and allowed me to enjoy the whole experience.  Even when my youngest, dubbed “a feather” by the staff, got stuck in the middle of a very long zip line (because he wasn’t heavy enough to maintain momentum), I was fully confident in his safety.

It was a really fun weekend and made me want to keep climbing trees.

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Have Kids, Will…Savor My Own Childhood Memories

While having dinner at The Aachener Brauhaus, a traditional tavern in Aachen, Germany–my great-grandmother’s hometown–I was suddenly reminded of my grandparents’ house in Pennsylvania.  Taking in my surroundings, my senses jolted with recognition.  The dark, grainy oak of the benches and moldings; the smell of sauerkraut, cigarettes, and beer; the sound of many voices, mostly the baritone of men blending together into a hypnotic hum, all became a blanket that wrapped warmly around me as I sat eating a plate of sauerbraten with red cabbage and potatoes. The jovial faces and sometimes boisterous conversations that surrounded me lent a feeling of comfort and familiarity.

My grandparents had 12 children, who in turn produced about 50 of my first cousins–no small feat.  Their home, when we visited, was always bustling with the activity of multiple family members visiting at once.  There was lively conversation, plenty of booze, massive, steaming bowls of either spaghetti or stuffed cabbage rolls–anything that could feed a large crowd, and an abundance of children running through the house playing hide-and-seek.  As the evenings wore on, someone would inevitably pull out a guitar or my grandmother would sit at the piano after being coaxed into playing Flight of the Bumblebee, an amazing song to hear and watch being played. The music would fill the living room and spill out onto the wraparound porch, where even more family members were catching up and swapping tales under the dim porch lights.  As a child, I didn’t often recognize the songs being played as my uncles would croon along to the guitar, but the sounds were soothing (and amusing as more imbibing took place).

The camaraderie of family and friends, coming together to visit, eat, drink, and entertain each other is universally appealing.  Nothing can replace the fundamental importance of generations coming together, whose shared heritage pulls history not from the pages of a book, but from the energy of the past.  The ghosts of those who have come before us, through life’s struggles and successes, live on in these moments–brought back to life through stories told and memories shared.  We carry our pasts with us no matter where in the world we go, and sometimes we find visiting other places helps to heighten our memories of past experiences as we are simultaneously creating new memories through new experiences.

As my children grow and I wonder who will need the most therapy for my sometimes inept parenting, I hope they are absorbing the best of what surrounds them.  Isn’t that what we always want for our children?  Knowing that both ordinary and extraordinary experiences will help to form them into the adults they will become, I hope they come to appreciate the ordinary love of family and the extraordinary effect it can have on them.