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Camping with my kids: an exercise in risk and failure

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Camping with my kids, is the thing I do these days, that most effectively wakes me into presence. The break in routine, requires a bit more focus and intentionality. It challenges me to experiment with risk and failure. Ideas I want my kids to be well acquainted with.

Being outdoors is important to me. When we lived in New Zealand, it was easy to tweak our habits to include a hearty dose of nature. In Nashville it is more challenging. Ben's weekend work schedule and our proximity to the city, make it difficult to find things that scratch my itch for outdoor adventure.

Last summer, after a somewhat successful family camping trip in Utah, I decided to learn how to camp on my own with our kids. It felt like an ambitious goal - high risk,  with solid potential for failure and room for some measured success.

Our first trip happened very spontaneously. I think it was a knee-jerk response to feeling sad, lonely or a little bit trapped. I quickly packed up without making a good plan, finding a solid campsite, or checking the weather. We arrived close to dark, the campsite owner was a bit creepy, I forgot pull-ups, it rained and Jonah threw up three times in the middle of the night. In the morning, I lost my temper, cried,  packed up our wet tent and went home. Even still, there were enough redeeming moments to make me want to try again.

Each time I take my kids camping it gets easier. I forget things less frequently, we set up more quickly, I learn better tricks to entertain them in the down time, I figure out what meals work, what routines are helpful. But more importantly we are learning to take risks together, fail and keep moving forward. I need to take some time to unpack why I think that is so valuable... but for some reason, it feels like a really good thing. 

This past weekend we went camping at Tims Ford State Park. It was the first trip I have taken with the kids that felt like more of a success than failure. The weather was perfect. We rode bikes on the trails, I only lost my temper a few times. I read a book in the hammock while the kids built a fort in the woods and we ate lots and lots of smores. I fell asleep under the stars - thankful that we took a risk and made the effort to learn how to camp together. We have failed a lot - but this trip was a success. 


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Max and Maggie found this sweet baby cardinal with a injured wing at a friends house across creek on Saturday. They watched for a long time to see if it's mother would appear, but she seemed to be abandoned. They brought her home and made a place her in our sunroom. The next morning when we walked to church, we left her in the garage to practice flying. Just outside of our garage happens to be another cardinals nest. We have been watching for the past three weeks as a mother and father care for their three (much smaller) babies. When we returned and opened the garage the mother and father cardinal flew in and out of the garage - a bit frantic to help our abandoned bird. We set her out in the garden and watched with binoculars for an hour as they flew back and forth between their nest and our bird - hunting and feeding all four chicks. We decided to build a nest for our little bird in the nearby tree house. All afternoon the mother and father cared for her. Around five, she gained enough strength and we watched her fly high up into the trees above our house. It was beautiful. I want to be a person that cares for others with the same intensity as our faithful cardinal neighbors.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Shortly after we unpacked our boxes in Nashville, I knew it was time to start looking for a councilor. I got a solid recommendation and found someone that I love. On and off (over the past ten years) counseling has played a significant role in my life. It helps me initiate more productive internal conversations, gives me a sounding board when I exhaust my husbands patience, and generally makes me a healthier and happier person.

A wide variety of 'issues" have been on the table these past few months, but one thing that keeps surfacing is my hope to start writing and snapping photos again. I leave most counseling sessions with a strong conviction to make time for writing - and return two weeks later with lots of reasons why I didn't.

The process of recording the "noted moments" in our life, has been an invaluable tool for me. It helps me keep track of the small things that I am thankful for - the things that slip away if I don't acknowledge them. Assigning value to these (often overlooked) moments, brings me joy when life feels heavy. I wish that I had written every day when my dad way dying. There was so much beauty tied up in the sadness. It all seem a bit hazy now.

We are heading out of town for a few weeks... but I hope to be back in this space more often in the coming months.

Selling our first home

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In 2012 when we left Delaware and moved to New Zealand, I wasn't entirely sure that it was going to work out. We were in a challenging place in our family life and I wasn't confident that an international move was a wise choice. We made the decision not to sell our home - thinking that Delaware would be a good place to transition back to the States when we finished our time in New Zealand (or perhaps sooner if things went south).  We packed a storage unit with the things we wanted to keep and Ben's cousin Stephen and his wife Lindsey moved in with their two boys, to rent our home while we were away.

New Zealand ended up being exactly what we needed. It prepared us for an exhausting road ahead. After my dad was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (an aggressive form of brain cancer) we moved to South Carolina for about a year and in December we settled in Nashville. Stephen is finishing up his residency program in July and we have our Delaware home listed to sell. We never made it back 31 Sheffield Manor Drive and for many reasons that is sad for me. 

It was our first home. We picked it out and made it our own. We opened our doors and shared our space with people that we love. We brought all four of of our babies home and built a foundation for our family within its walls. It's a sacred space that I am not quite ready to pass on. I am thankful for the eight years we had on Sheffield Manor Drive and hopeful that we will find owners that will love our home and neighbors as much as we did.

Malibu wedding

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

In 2011 we were living in Delaware. Ben had finished his five year residency program, worked a year in the ER and had just started an intense two year critical care fellowship an hour from our home. Max and Maggie were in preschool and Jude was four months old. We had a good network of support, a few highly competent babysitters and some dear friends - but no family within driving distance.

Ben’s cousin Stephen and his wife Lindsey arrived in July. Stephen was beginning the same residency program that Ben had completed and they lived five minutes from our home in Newark. They became a special part of our family and made our lives rich in a million different ways.

A few months ago Lindsey called to get my thoughts on traveling with her (soon to be) newborn baby. She knew that I had done it myself, and was hoping to be in close friends Malibu wedding four weeks postpartum. I encouraged her to go and offered to be her (baby holding) date – since Stephen would be home with their two boys. It helped her enjoy the wedding, but it was also a tremendous gift for me. 

The trip came at the perfect moment. I needed a get away – an opportunity to see beautiful things, spend time with a kind friend and be reminded of the things that are true in my life. I know that we are done having babies, so it was a special treat to spend so much time soaking in the wonder of new life. 

The wedding was at a beautiful vineyard in Agora Hills. The weather was perfect and the food and drinks were delicious. The bride was an actress and the groom was a pastor, so there was an eclectic mix of people in attendance. I have always enjoyed meeting new people and hearing their stories (a trait I inherited from my father) and I was also holding newborn – a task that always invites conversation. It was a lovely evening. 

Considering the fact that Lindsey and I have a combined total of seven kids – there was an unprecedented amount of downtime this weekend. In addition to the wedding festivities, we had lunch at a in Santa Barbara, I skated a greenway along the Pacific, we had ice cream on the beach, mojitos at a swanky resort and ate In-and-Out burgers driving Route 1 at sunset. It was a life giving weekend with two girls that I love dearly.


Monday, May 16, 2016

In the past, when I've thought of grief (generically and as it related to other people) - I underestimated it's tenacity. It's ability to linger and distract for a frustratingly long period of time. We lost my dad a year ago today. I spent yesterday remembering all the painful and poignant details. And then I thought about the actual onset of grief - nine months prior when we were living in New Zealand and learned of his grim prognosis.

Life has moved on... but with a notable lack of enthusiasm. All the necessary things get done along with many fun and unnecessary things. And now that the kids are in school and we have settled into a more permanent home, I have time to do a few of the things that I love. But I haven't had energy to be passionate and life feels flat. For the past twenty one months, grief has been exhausting.

Nashville Rollergirl

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Skills test passed - ready to get back at it, with the Nashville Rollergirls!