Thursday, June 28, 2012

Make a Memory Today

I stumbled upon a blog post this morning encouraging fathers to be purposeful in planning family vacations.  

Family vacations provide a unique opportunity each year for fathers to create memories their children will never forget. Memories that will last a lifetime. 
Memories that will be recreated by your children with your grandchildren. Memories that will outlive a father.
(excerpt from post linked above)

It reminded me of all the wonderful vacation memories my own father created for my brothers and I.  Looking back at old family pictures I came up with a list of things that are worth the trouble when you're on a trip or plan a trip.

{ Skip School }
I remember this day so vividly, getting checked out of school for a spur-of-the-moment trip just to drive up north a bit and enjoy the fall color.  Take advantage of the moment.  Be spontaneous.

{ Expect Delays and Set-backs }
I think every single bicycle on this camping trip busted a tube.  I'm sure it was frustrating for my dad, spending so much time on bike repair, but I don't remember him getting overly frustrated.  I think you just have to try to stay calm and take care of the problem.  It didn't catch God by surprise.

{ Swim with your clothes on }
Didn't pack a bathing suit?  Don't sweat it.  The clothes will dry.  Natural rock slides don't appear every day.

{ Don't let a blizzard keep you indoors }
Enough said.  Get out there and enjoy it.  Wear your mom's coat and your dad's cap, a poncho from Guatemala, whatever you can find to keep warm.

{ Eat Lunchables } 
I just love how tough Jesse looks eating a Lunchable.  That's impressive.

{ Take your dog on a hike }
It might make a Barney Fife park ranger mad.

{ Go on 11-mile bike rides }
I can still conjure up every hill and curve of that ride in my mind we rode it so many times.  

{ Take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities }
How often do the Olympics happen just a short drive away from your hometown?

{ Go big }
Two week road trips?  You should take one.


{ Swing off a rope }
Don't worry about it if the water feels like it's 40 degrees.

{ Take your shirt off and carry a whip }
You know, if you're a boy, I guess.

{ Know you'll be tired at the end }
But if you do even one of these things with your family this summer you won't regret it, and you'll definitely make memories your kids will one day recreate with their spouses and children.  I promise.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Adventure Walking

James' running and my jogging backwards combined
with a manual-focus lens gave me a somewhat blurry
picture of a face I love.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Things I'm Loving About this Summer

I just have to say (again) that I am loving this summer.  It feels like such a season of refreshment and thankfulness and joy, a season of seeing grace upon grace poured out on our family in the past and the present.  

It is such a joy being with my children.  Of course there's moments of frustration when James continuously demands things of me in the loudest inside voice you've ever heard, but overall?  Enjoyment.  I'm enjoying Ella.  She's precious and amazing.  At the very beginning of the summer she started having me make her a list of things to do during the day.  I don't know how long she will enjoy this, but for now, it is the best tool for keeping me on track in making sure we spend our time doing the things I really want to do with her.  Without discipline the time can slip by so easily.

With our list to guide us we're making time for school work.  I bought a first grade workbook at Wal-Mart for us to use this summer.  So far it's helped her stay fresh with skills she learned in Kindergarten, and I got to teach her what a noun was.  The thrilling journey into the world of grammar begins.  I love teaching my kids things they never knew before.  (One day I'll tell her she shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition as I just did.)

I've been paying close attention to what she does in gymnastics class and helping her practice at home, doing the crab walk and hanging on the pull-up bar to increase her upper arm strength.  She's been reading and helping clean-up around the house.  And most of the time, she exercises a lot of patience with her little brother, who wants to do EVERY SINGLE LITTLE THING she does.  

And this kid...he very nearly single-handedly taught himself how to navigate the Preschool Disney website.  He had no real instruction but pulls up games and videos like he's been using the internet since 1998.  When Ella was first given the privilege of playing computer games, she always asked.  This child claims his turn at the computer whenever he sees the desk chair empty, no permission asked.  We'll work on that. 

He doesn't have a list of things to do, but he's been learning necessary life-skills through various outings, such as staying in one general area, coming when called, whispering in the library, holding hands in parking lots.  He also made the transition from the crib to a toddler bed two weeks ago, and it was like nothing even happened.  I couldn't believe it.  I thought he'd be up and out of there like nobody's business, but he doesn't even get up when he wakes up from naps.  I hear him and open the door to his room before he'll get out of his bed.  I feel like this is a miracle.

And yesterday?  Yesterday I decided to let him spend the day in underwear and work on potty-training, and he did it.  He did it.  From 10:15-8 p.m. when we got him ready for bed he kept those underwear dry and actually told us ahead of time when he needed to go to the bathroom.  It was another miracle. 

Happy summer, indeed.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday's Memories: The Lion and Fiddle

When we left Oxford Saturday evening we were getting ready to start the second week of our trip, and we discovered a more economical way of feeding ourselves:  grocery stores.  Who would have thought?  I think this was the first night we stopped at a local ASDA, a British supermarket chain.  I had such a good time walking the aisles of that store, looking at the familiar yet different products.  

One thing I found interesting was that the U.S. obviously rounds up when they print the number of calories in packaged food.  Granola bars that would have 140 calories here listed things like 137 kcal there.  I just thought that was interesting.  

So that night we picked up sandwiches from the deli, as well as some snacks for the road.  I found a version of my favorite sparkling water, and my brilliant husband suggested we buy a case of Diet Coke so that I'd no longer be hunting for a shop to buy one every morning.  Brilliant, I tell you.  In the absence of a refrigerator in our room we simply left the drinks in the car, and they were nice and cold by morning.  

We spent Saturday and Sunday night at The Lion and Fiddle in the county of Wiltshire.  After long days of walking we grew to enjoy settling in early in the evening with the BBC television and free WiFi.  I would go through pictures and blog.  This night we watched a special on WWII on the British History Channel, followed by a movie I couldn't remember seeing before, and I don't remember the name of it now.  Whatever it was, it was quite relaxing. I really miss British television and recognizing the voices of Michael Gambon and Matthew Macfadyen doing voice-overs on commercials.  It was so fun.

Twin rooms are cheaper!

 the porta-shower, or so I called it
You couldn't hear a thing once you stepped in and shut the door.

Sunday morning dawned cold and bright, and we enjoyed another good English breakfast.  I definitely missed having someone cook for me every morning when we came home.  The radio (wireless?) was tuned in to a local station, and it felt like a Sunday morning back home.  KJ said he heard A Mighty Fortress is our God playing when he came downstairs.  We were sitting there discussing how we hadn't found the people as cold and completely secular as we'd been led to believe and maybe churches weren't as dead as we'd heard either.
Right about that time we heard the lady on the radio announcing events taking place in Wiltshire that morning, and she said, "There will be a spiritual reading at _______ Church this afternoon."  KJ and I got really quiet and looked at each other.  A spiritual reading?  In a church?  Maybe things were kind of bad in churches here...  A few seconds later the announcer went on to say which books of the Bible the reading would be coming from.  Ooohhh, that kind of spiritual reading.  We were relieved to hear they were reading from the Bible on Sundays and not reading palms and telling fortunes.
We finished our breakfast with light hearts and prepared for a morning in Lacock, a.k.a Cranford.

Friday, June 22, 2012

C.S. Lewis' Church

Not far from The Kilns we found the parish church C.S. Lewis attended.  I really love how villages are set up in England, everything there together in walking distance.  I'd like a parish church.  Being in this parish felt nostalgic of another time.

There wasn't a car park around the church.  We parked on the street and followed the path.  I liked that you had to do that.  It felt like leaving modern life behind walked between the hedge and rock wall.

We heard the story of Lewis and his brother leaving the service early each Sunday and the heavy wooden doors slamming in their wake.  The sexton was asked to come up with a way to keep the noise from being so loud.  I wonder why they didn't just ask them to take more care shutting the door.  Part of me finds this habit endearingly quirky, and the other part finds it rude.

The Narnia Window

I'm not sure what year it was added, but there was a lovely Narnia-inspired window near the pew Lewis usually occupied.  There's really quite a lot to see in it the longer you look.  I just noticed the lamppost at the top.


What a magical place Lewis created.

KJ is sitting in the spot marked as Lewis'.  Aren't those stone arches lovely?  I love those needlepoint seat cushions, too.  Classic.

The floor is the same as in Jane Austen's church.

 Beautiful Doors

It took us awhile to find Lewis' grave, though after a while we found a sign pointing the way.  If it's not too strange to say, the graveyard felt like a magical place that night. 

His brother, Warnie, is now buried with him.  From what we learned at The Kilns he grieved for a long time when Lewis died.  It was very hard for him.

 I love this picture.

We left through the gate and turned the car towards Bath.  I hope we'll be back in Oxford one day.