Inspired by Wyoming

 

The summer morning air was cold. I climbed out of my sleeping bag, unzipped the tent and stepped out into the brisk air, and as I did, I watched my breath. One would not have guessed it was August. I settled into feeling awake with a blanket around my shoulders and made my way to the campfire shared by our tent neighbors, medical students who came out to observe the eclipse and climb the Tetons. The first thing we did was to make coffee, and snuggle by the fire with our warm drinks in hand, and the glowing light of the morning sun on the buttes beyond Wind River.

Waking up at a KOA, one in DuBois, Wyoming, (said Doo-boyce) and the other in West Yellowstone Montana, I experienced that wonderful sensation that although it was summer, the morning felt like a cold fall day. The weather warmed up as the day went on, of course, but each day began with cold morning air.

We returned home after our trip. August turned to September, our school year began, and before I knew it, January came with its sub-zero temperatures. Most of the time I stay in the house on those cold days. But as they say in Denmark, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. So I took my kids out sledding even on the coldest days.

Now it is nearly a year later, and when I step out into the cold December air, and look at the light, my thoughts sound something like this: There is still more light that we are soaking in outside on an overcast day than there is sitting inside in a well-lit room. There is more vitamin D to take in outside and sunlight in the morning helps reset our circadian rhythm. It may be cold, but even if it is only twenty minutes, sitting outside in the cold with a hot cup of tea, or coffee, or hot chocolate, there are benefits to be had. It’s a chance to slow down, to take in the beauty of today, and to catch up with my thoughts before I step back in to the demands in my life.

So take the time to go outside with your hot drink, soak in the sunshine—even if it is overcast, and enjoy happy thoughts in the middle of the business of your life!

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Sledding with Hot Cup of Coffee

Yes, you read that right! This morning I went sledding with a hot cup of coffee in my hand. And it was marvelous!

Don’t do this if you’re a kid.

Don’t do this if you feel it is unsafe, because it basically is.

But I tried it.

I think I’m intrigued by the thrill of taking outdoor winter sports and turning it into another kind of adventure.

I held my cup between two fingers so that the cup could swing with the motion and  not spill. I was alone on the sled. I held the cup away from me over the snow. And the hill isn’t super big, and I’m an adult and can navigate the sled well.

It was fun being out in the cold with the cool air on my face and snow all around me (the meager dusting that we got, if you can say that is “all around me.”) and it is nice having a warm cup in my hands in the cold.

I went down twice. I drank a sip at the bottom of the hill as the sled slowed down.

It was really fun!

At the top of the hill, I sat down on the sled, my coffee in hand. The tree branches overhead creating a lacy shade. The dusting of snow   before me all down the hill.

With my other hand I pushed off, and away I went down the hill, the breeze in my face, the exhilaration of adventure, cold air and cold snow around me, warm coffee in my hand, the steam rising.

The speed of the sled on the snow, the thrill of experiencing the morning: coffee, pajamas, “baked potato” jacket, warm boots, winter around me. Down the hill I went, then sliding to a stop. Sip of coffee. Yum.

Happiness envelops me, a smile spreads across my face. Fun. Beautiful, exhilarating fun. Let’s do that again! And I do.

If only I could keep the coffee hot longer out in the cold. If only a little more snow. I could do this for another hour or two.

My boys are sledding down the hill too, not with coffee. The sound of their laughter warms my soul. I still feel like a kid inside when I’m out here sledding. And Coffee is cozy. Two cozy things, coffee and sledding, and it makes for an experience of its own!

 

 

All in the spirit of being cozy in cold weather!

A Good Summer Day

Sandwich 1.JPGToday I got up at quarter to six and took my daughter out for coffee.

We ate muffins and sandwiches. We drank coffee and hot cocoa. We played with Lego.

 

We asked “what would you do if…?” questions.

Where would you live if you could live anywhere?

If you could live in any kind of house, what would it be like? ]

If you could drive any kind of car, what would it be?

What historical landmark would you most like to visit?

If you could go to any country, which country would it be?

 

I am happy the coffee shop has the set of cards with questions like this. It opens up conversation.

I love that my daughter’s answer to the car question was a Limousine!

 

I came home and had another cup of coffee with my husband before he headed off to work.

I took a little time to think about some curricula options for the coming school year—one of my cousin’s kids are starting school today! That’s too soon for me!—so I put a little thought into it.

And moved on.

 

I took two kids to a summer activity.

I spent the rest of the morning with my oldest. We went to the Post Office, the grocery store for tuna, and to the Library. We had a nice time.

 

I picked up the kids. They watched a Boxcar Children movie while I made lunch.

 

We had tuna sandwiches and fruit.

 

To me, this is a very nice summer day.

 

If only it was just these nice things!
There is still the child who refuses to eat the sandwich because it’s tuna.
There’s the siblings picking on each other. “He’s looking at me.”
There’s feeling like maybe I want to not have to think about school ever.

These things are real. If you live life with real people there are always things.

But despite that, today is a good day.

Summer isn’t Over!

IMG_3590.JPGAugust has hit. Everybody is talking about going back to school. And every time they do, I want to cringe.

I am not ready to start back into school. I don’t have a plan this year by now, like I usually do.

We have always had a structure in place that has given us some context. “Ancient history this year, and astronomy,” for instance. This year that structure is in our rearview mirror and we are moving into a different context. And it has a lot of wiggle room.

On top of that, as summer was just beginning we were hit with a bunch of expenses. A boatload of car repairs all at once. An emergency room visit. Learning therapy for one of the kids. We already have two kids in braces.

It happens that this year is our tenth wedding anniversary and this year we have been anticipating going to California to celebrate.

So, I have spent the summer finding every way I can think of to pinch more and more pennies so we can go to California.

Then I remember the school year. I want to buy things for the school year that all added up would be quite expensive. I could easily spend all the vacation money on school supplies. Maybe I don’t need all those things. But they would be really

Perhaps you can relate. Perhaps you don’t feel ready for the school year to start. Despite the enthusiasm that seems to be crawling out of cyberspace saying it’s time to start, maybe you feel like summer isn’t over and there is more to enjoy.

So for now, I’m going to shove the school planning back across the desk, get up, walk outside with a good book and go read for fun.

A Literature Rich Childhood

Growing up, I was immersed in rich literature. We were read to since we were little, my siblings and me. After I learned how to read, I remember struggling to read on my own at first, it felt like so much work. When my parents were on a week long vacation to the U.S. Virgin Islands, I stayed at my grandma’s house. I found a copy of Little House on the Prairie. I remembered my mom reading it to me when I was two when we had been staying with my grandparents as we made the transition moving from out of state, and during that time, my mom read to my sister and me Little House on the Prairie, Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John, and The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Now at the age of nine, I picked up  Little House on the Prairie and began reading. It was slow going, but I was determined to read it. I tended to read every word carefully. It didn’t make me a fast reader, but I remembered most of what I read vividly, as the words on the page formed pictures in my imagination.

The week at my grandparent’s was over and I took the book home and finished it. I went to the Library and got Little House in the Big Woods. I read that. Then I read the rest of the books in the series. I think it took  me the better part of two years to finish the series. But it was those books that made me a reader. 

 

I think there was almost something magical that I experienced too. If Laura Ingalls Wilder could write about herself, then there was no reason why I couldn’t also aspire to be a writer.

I remember at the age of seven pretending to write stories and pretending my job was being a storyteller. I think I imagined I was on the radio. Instead of watching TV, we grew up listening radio drama, reading books, being read to. My dad read to us every night after supper, and often again at bedtime. My mom read to us during the day. Besides books, we sang together. We listened to music. Books and music were some of our favoirte pass-times in my growing up years.

My mom had also grown up being inspired by wonderful books. Her mom passed on to us many of the wonderful books that my mom read. Whenever we visited her parents, my grandpa would sit down and read to us. Sometimes it was Norman the Doorman by Don Freeman. Sometimes it was Buzztail, about a rattlesnake. Often it was One Morning in Maine, and Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey. When my mom’s parents came up to visit us, I remember going to the library and checking out other children’s books by Robert McCloskey to have on hand for grandpa to read to us. I remember bringing home Burt Dow, Deep Water Man and asking grandpa to read it to us. It seems as though he had never heard of that one. But read it, he did.

We grew up on Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne (said miln), The Peter Rabbit stories by Beatrix Potter, Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski, and many others. I remember Snow Tracks by Jean Craighead George–an endearing story about a boy who trudges through the snow leaving tracks behind, and the captivating mouse called Chief Half-an-Ear.

As I got older, I would go to the library and check out books for myself. Because of the wonderful literature I grew up with, I knew how to select other beautiful works. My grandma also kept a supply of books coming. I remember my sister picking out a book about Daniel Boone. She read it and then handed it to me. I devoured it. We had a habit of her reading a book, giving me pieces of what happened, and then I would have to read up to that part and fill in the details she hadn’t told me. It felt like such an intriguing way to encounter the books we read. Sometimes we read sitting next to each other, her reading usually ahead of me, and me reading somewhere else in the book with the pages standing up between us. Sometimes I would start a book, tell her what was happening in it. She would read next to me at the beginning of the book and soon pass me in the book and I would be reading behind her.

Snow Tracks by [George, Jean Craighead]

It was not uncommon for me to go hide in my room with a book. If I was found too easily, I would hide in my small closet and read with a flashlight. Or under the stairs. Or outside. My ideal job would be getting paid to read good books.

At twelve, I read Treasure Island with a dictionary by my side. I think I jumped several reading levels when I did. I had gotten the idea from another book by my grandma called Twins in South Africa. There were two in this series I read, Twins in Australia and Twins in South Africa. I seem to recall being more intrigued by the story in Twins in Australia, but got the idea about the Dictionary from Twins in South Africa.  These books were about twelve year old twins, if I am remembering correctly. As I’m writing it, I remember that before those books I had to have read My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, because I was twelve and it was just after my youngest brother was born. My mom got My Side of the Mountain for my older sister and me to read as a thank you for the help we gave her when our brother was born.

After reading Treasure Island, I read other books by Robert Louis Stevenson. I read Men of Iron by Howard Pyle and went on a Howard Pyle tangent. I read Robin Hood by Howard Pyle, and then I read another Robin Hood by E. Charles Vivian.  I would often go on a tangent. If I read Treasure Island, I might spend months on books by Stevenson. If I read Howard Pyle, I would read books by Howard Pyle for months. If I found that one author had a book about Robin Hood, and so did another author, I would often go from one Robin Hood Book to another. But sometimes, my interests changed directions and I would move from my interest in Robin Hood legends to my interest in the Tartans of Scotland. My interests varied so much that I never had time to read everything I wanted to. I have yet to read Howard Pyle’s The Boy’s King Arthur. While I have started Otto of the Silver Hand, I still have to finish it. I plan to do that with my kids. [One of my kids went through a stage of picking out people in books and movies who had prosthetic hands, including Otto of the Silver Hand and Luke Skywalker.] I could never read fast enough to keep up with my interests. I still have this problem.

This took me into other areas of interest. Many of the books by Stevenson were illustrated by N.C. Wyeth (said WHY-eth). This took me to other books illustrated by Wyeth, such as Robinson Crusoe. I read many survival stories, like The Swiss Family Robinson. Stevenson remained perhaps my favorite author for his ability to put words and plot together. Only later when I was an adult did I discover The Count of Monte Cristo, and found that Alexander Dumas had outdone Stevenson’s plots in this single book.

I read A Girl of the Limberlost, and then read about butterflies and moths, and checked out multiple field guides to identify various species. I enjoyed checking out multiple field guides and finding which publisher’s style grabbed my attention the most. Grandpa told me that as a boy growing up in Montana, his teacher would read every afternoon after recess for fifteen minutes aloud, and it was during one of these after recess read aloud times that he heard A Girl of the Limberlost.  He spoke of it with affection. Is it any wonder that he later moved to the Wabash River Valley to paint the landscapes of Indiana prairie?

When I was a sophomore in high school, my dad handed my Carry On, Mr Bowditch. He told me I would enjoy it. I said I wouldn’t. But inevitably, I picked it up, and read it. And proceeded to begin writing an index for the book so I could quickly refer to the parts I enjoyed. I went to the library and asked the librarian to get the American Practical Navigator (known as the Navigator’s Bible) by Nathaniel Bowditch, inter-library loan. I didn’t understand much of it, but looked at the charts it contained and kept it until I had to return it. Reading took me to places I would never have explored otherwise.

I read the Elsie Dinsmore books I could get my hands on. I only read four or five, because at the time I couldn’t afford each book in the series of 28, and most of them expensive re-prints.

I read Five Little Peppers and How they Grew, and other Five Little Pepper books.

We read books with excellent writing, beautiful illustrations, and qualities that are worth aspiring to.  I have many favorites. There are many books I have yet to read.

It is my desire to inspire others to experience such wonderful, rich literature. To be captivated by story. To experience the things stories teach us in a subtle way that sticks with us. I hope to inspire others by sharing what books have been so enjoyable to me.

Sledding in Pajamas

“Do you get to go to school in your pajamas?!?!

This is a common question homeshoolers get asked occasionally.

The answer is Yes. We do.

Well, for many anyway, that’s the answer.

When I was being homeschooled, my mom had us come to the breakfast table dressed and ready for the day (which meant hair brushed and shoes on). I think it gave her a sense of being put together.

I don’t require that of my children, but most days, we do get dressed before we begin school.

But not today!

Today, completely unplanned, I asked my eight-year-old to get dressed after breakfast and go sledding. He already had his mind fixed on the Lego project he was going to work on. I could tell that the motivation to go outside wasn’t on his radar. Let alone to do school.

So, I helped him transition out the door. And I put on my jacket, snow pants and boots too, and went out with him.

I told him that we should aim to go down the hill 10 times before coming inside.

What fun we had! We raced down. We took turns. We went at different together and not together. We whacked icicles together and watched them shatter until only the icicle stubs were left in our gloved hands.

When we went in, I think it did us both good!

It wasn’t that the school day went perfectly after that, but it do go well. Something was definitely gained. My son ran off his energy. We both felt good after sledding all bundled up in the frigid air and sunshine. Our lungs had breathed in that fresh cold air, and we came into the warm house, better ready to sit and focus.

Those few minutes gave us some time that we played together. As a mom who is with my kids almost all the time, I still have to make it a point to play with my kids and connect with them together and individually. Playing with my son helps him know I’m on his side. We create memories. We connect in a different way when we play. 10 minutes of playing Lego or a quarter hour of sledding down hill together, he sees a different side of me than teacher and mom.  Often I feel as though I don’t have time for that fun thing my kids want to do right now, and usually taking a few minutes and just giving them that time fills their emotional bank accounts faster than putting it off until later.

Today, we definitely gained from some outside time before school!

Dear reader, may you make room to experience some simple thing that brings you joy in your busy day as well!

When It’s Three Degrees Outside

The New Year has come. January in means cold weather is here. Today, the forecast said it was three degrees outside. That is cold by any standards. Normally, I just want to hunker down by a fire with a good book. Not that that’s what happens. Yes, I mostly stay indoors. And do laundry, put things away that are lying around, wash dishes…the usual menial tasks.

Several days ago, I was reading the book Free To Learn by Peter Gray. In the first chapter he told how when he was in school in the 1950’s, he was “at school” for six hours a day. One of those hours was a one hour lunch. Another hour was two, half-hour recesses. That leaves four hours for academics. He explained how children of today are in school more hours with fewer hours to play and little of their play time is outside.

That got me thinking. Let’s go outside. I remember a friend who had moved to our area had gone outside with her son when it was seven degrees outside, and a neighbor in the apartment complex told them it was actually too cold, and not really safe, to be outside. So they went inside.

But I’ve also read a little about hygge (said hyu-ge, from Danish/Norweigian) the idea of coziness as a part of everyday life. In Scandanavia, where it is cold and there is less light  a good part of the year, they have to make life cozy despite the cold.

Why not play outside?

So, we all bundled up and went sledding. I do have to put the snowsuit cuffs around the boots, or add a scarf, or get a dry pair of mittens for my children sometimes.

Yet, the sun is out. It’s bright outside, which is definitely a perk in January. Despite the cold, we bundled up accordingly, and went sledding down our hill.

Climbing up the hill, crowding on the sled, the thrill of going down, and climbing back up again and doing it over and over. Fresh air. Sunshine. Laughter. Cheerful shouts of happiness. It’s all worth it.

It’s been several days in a row now. It helps tremendously! Being inside too long without an outlet for energy, my youngsters get stir crazy and the energy can come out in less than positive ways. But, go outside and play hard, come back in and share a meal or a hot cup of chocolate or tea and read a book–the energy is channeled into something much more positive!

I’ve even taken to using our time outside as an opportunity to clean up some of the brush wood that has piled up. Our yard has old trees, many are box elder trees. Some have fallen in storms, some with age, some with a heavy snowfall. Not the heartiest species. Clearing a pile here and a pile there in the winter is actually more appealing than going out to do in in mosquito- and humidity-infested heat. It gets my heart rate up a little and some additional fresh air and sunshine when our sledding time slows down. I feel accomplished for both playing outside as a family and getting some much needed yard work done!

We hit the books again next week. But I hope we continue this trend. It has added sunshine and happiness to this very cold time of year!

* Disclaimer: Use caution when taking very small children out in extreme temperatures. My kids are old enough to walk and tell me when they are cold. We all wear heavy winter jackets, snow pants, insulated boots, good socks, insulated mittens or gloves, hats, hoods and scarves. We’ve managed to stay out for an hour at a time in the warmest hour of the day. I’ve made sure to get snow out of boots and sleeves when needed, and we make sure our snow clothes are dry for the next day before going out. If it were 30 degrees warmer, it would be easier to wear the same jacket outside for several hours in the morning and again in the afternoon. 🙂