Sunday Night Adventures

river 2Some Sunday evenings you abandon the healthy dinner you planned and the back-to-school routine you recently established. You ignore your anxiety about having outfits picked out the night before and lunches packed in the fridge ready to go. Instead, you simply watch your children play. You breath and listen and don’t think of the week ahead. You only think of this one beautiful moment unfolding right in front of you . You close your eyes and promise you will do this more often.

***

I initially said no when my husband suggested a last-minute fishing trip to the river on Sunday night. It was 5:30. We hadn’t eaten dinner, the kids hadn’t cleaned their rooms, the kitchen was a disaster, and I needed to practice sight words with my son. However, as soon as these thoughts raced through my mind, I dismissed them and realized that these were the exact reasons why I should say yes.

Since the beginning of the school year, I have found myself struggling to come to terms with a daily routine that leaves little room for spontaneity and adventure.  However, I have an inkling that this is mostly my own doing. I seem to be stuck in the constant cycle of looking ahead and forgetting to appreciate the here and now.

So, on Sunday night, I abandoned the cluttered living room and even messier kitchen. I threw some pieces of bologna into the backseat for the kids and called it dinner, and we headed to the river.

Hours later, I returned home with wet and muddy kids, another load of laundry, and a few extra mosquito bites, but, more importantly, I returned home with two kids wearing huge smiles on their faces. I returned home feeling lighter. Refreshed.

At the river, I sat on the edge of the water watching my children splash, build dams out of river rocks, and jump into the water fully clothed.  I made an effort to be still and to enjoy the moment right in front of me and not the million of moments in the week ahead that needed to be carefully orchestrated: the pick-ups and drop-offs, the grocery lists and the homework, the soccer practices and Scouting events, the bedtime routines and the chores.

river 1No, in the evening sun with the sounds of water and happy children flooding my ears, I remembered that life is not always about anticipating the next moment. It is not made up of perfectly packed lunches, neatly stacked laundry, and forms filled out in precise handwriting.

Life is about the shrieks of excitement when my daughter runs toward the water. Life is about the squeals of delight when my son, fully clothed, jumps off a rock into the deep water.  Life is about those unplanned and unexpected moments of joy.

In my effort to make sure that everyone is on time to school and soccer and after school events, I have been forgetting this. I’ve been trying too hard to keep the house clean and the meals healthy. I’ve been trying too hard to fill out all of the forms, clean out the folders, volunteer on the PTO, and help in the classroom.  I’ve been trying too hard to be the perfect stay-at-home mom to two school-aged children, but I don’t think it is working out because I seem to be spending too much time yelling and nagging and not enough time laughing.

I need to return to messy kitchens and piles of laundry.

I need to stop watching the clock so closely, and watch my children instead.

I need to keep nurturing that sense of adventure and wonder in my children that will stay with them for the remainder of their lives.

I need to remember that life happens between the scheduled moments. Life happens when we say yes to adventure and we focus on the moment in front of us.

***

How do you manage to balance school schedules, after-school activities, and family fun? I would love to hear your ideas!

 

Advertisements

A Letter to My Children’s Teachers

backtoschool.jpgDear Teachers, My kids are so excited to start school this year. Really! My daughter wore her book bag around the house for a week prior to her first day of kindergarten.  And my son? Months before entering first grade he started planning the lunches he wanted to put in his new dinosaur lunch box.  And the fact that he will have recess this year? Words just cannot express his feelings. 

I’m excited, too! I can’t wait to volunteer in the classroom and work with you to help my children succeed in school this year.

However, you should know that despite our excitement, there will be a few bumps in the road.  We’ve had a wild summer, and settling into a routine will be difficult. In fact, there may be several behaviors that might make you think less of my kids in the first few weeks of school. These behaviors might even might even make you think less of ME as a parent – especially when you realize that I will NOT be apologizing for many of these behaviors. 

I’m NOT sorry that my son is going to have a hard time sitting still during the first few weeks of school. You see, this summer he rarely sat still. He was too busy running, climbing rocks, swimming, and riding bikes. He is such a curious, hands-on kid, and being still is NOT something that comes naturally to him. Although his limbs may have forgotten how to fold into his chair, please know that he is eager to learn.

I’m NOT sorry that my daughter will likely come to school on most days with her hair a tangled mess. You see, this summer we didn’t really have too much time to worry about how we looked. The tears and the drama that came along with nicely brushed hair just weren’t worth it. I also know that there will be way too many days in the near future that what her hair looks like and what she is wearing will be ALL she can think about. I’m just going to postpone that as long as possible.

I’m NOT sorry that my kids will be coming to school in shorts with grass stains, pockets full of acorns and rocks, and muddy shoes. You see, we walk 1/4 mile to the bus, and my kids are used to exploring nature. This summer they spent more time outside than inside. They threw rocks in lakes, slid down boulders, built forts in the back yard, and continued their quest to unearth dinosaur fossils in my front yard. They want to continue to do ALL of this during our ten minute walk to the bus stop. They really do start the morning in nice, clean clothes, but who am I to stop them when they find a worm or want to try to smash open an acorn? They are continually curious about the world around them, and I want to nurture that, not squash it. And, seriously, who can resist a good mud puddle!?

mudpuddlebiking

I’m NOT sorry that my daughter might spend the first few weeks of school looking out the window and up at the clouds. You see, this summer we slowed down and just watched the sky some days. We used our imaginations not electronics. We studied the clouds and saw fluffy white ducks swimming in lakes, kittens chasing balls of yarn, and dinosaurs escaping volcanoes. Don’t worry though. She’ll soon discover that what is happening on the board and on her papers is equally fascinating. She will soon understand that letters and words will allow her to use her imagination in ways that she never dreamed possible.

I’m sure there will be many others things that come up that I’m NOT sorry about. However, please understand that my kids LOVE school and can’t wait to learn. Be assured that my kids will be polite and respectful and eager to learn. Know that I am at home supporting your work in any way I can. We’ve just been learning a whole different way this summer, a way that does not necessarily fit into a traditional classroom. A way that I hope will produce lifetime lovers of learning. 

I hope you understand that the best students are going to get a little bit of both worlds. My kids will climb mountains, ride trails, and look up at the sky to dream, but they will still need someone to pull them back down from those clouds and teach them the ways they can go about achieving those dreams. You have the difficult, frustrating, and fantastic job of making that happen.

And for that, I thank you.

Adventures in Pine Grove Furnace State Park

pinegrove1My daughter cannot manage to walk up the hill from the bus stop without whining, taking a break, groaning loudly, or just altogether stopping and refusing to go farther.

However, place her in the woods on a hot and humid summer afternoon (after five miles of bike riding!) and make her a hike a rocky trail with a steep incline and a pack of mosquitos hot on her tail, she is good to go.

Children are confusing.Read More »

5 Things I Learned in the Everglades

everglades4Recently, my family and I traveled to Florida for ten days. We spent the majority of our time lounging on the beach but managed to squeeze in some adventuring, as well. One of the highlights of our trip was a fifteen mile tram ride through Everglades National Park in Shark Valley. On our ride, we saw a variety of birds, alligators, snakes, and turtles. And, a lot of mosquitoes!  Part of the journey included climbing up a 65-foot observation tower for a birds-eye view of the “River of Grass.” It was stunning.Read More »

Locust Lake State Park and Pioneer Tunnel

Exploring Pennsylvania with Kids

Since we have been traveling to more and more Pennsylvania state parks and other attractions with our kids, I’m going to start documenting our experiences.  I don’t necessarily want to review each park or attraction, but just give a little glimpse into our experience. I hope others might find it useful in planning their trips or just getting a feel for the place. 

(I also really want to be able to remember this time with my kids because we are having SO much fun exploring new places and enjoying nature. I hope this love of adventure and appreciation of nature lasts a lifetime.)Read More »