Monthly Archives: August 2013

Country Living Revisited

My boys and I just spent eight days at the country home I grew up in in California. My parents bought the four — now six — acres 45+ years ago. It is about seven miles from “town” on a quiet, serene road. Crickets usher in the evening; mourning doves welcome the day. Acorns plop on the tin roof and the ground; oak leaves crunch underfoot. Deer explore the surrounding hills; the neighbors’ horses meander and munch. It is a place where my dad’s presence is hugely felt — every step, every corner, every inch of every acre holds a memory. Since we are a pet-less family who resides on a cul-de-sac in Washington state, it was heartwarming to see my 10-year-old and 4-year-old transform into country boys almost immediately.

Ten-year-old Rass came upon an empty pellet rifle and, with Grandma’s permission, charged through the house and outdoors, on the lookout for creeping marauders, like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story.” The boys’ shirts got stained with cactus juice after they whacked and pummeled the plants with sticks. They washed and played on the heavy-duty John Deere mini tractor that I used to pull my sister around in. We followed Cousin’s hand-drawn map up the hill to search for the rock fortress he diligently built weeks ago. We shouted out to the hilltops and listened to the echoes in return.

And over the week, my mom’s beagle Butler, who she inherited from my Uncle Jack, completely stole their hearts. Butler is often up and out by 6:20 a.m., roaming the hills, barking at who-knows-what, sometimes returning reeking like a skunk. He has become the man of the house and seems to take that role seriously.

The first morning we were there, we took Butler out for a walk. My mom instructed Rass on the proper use of the leash, how to pull over to the side of the road when we heard a car, how to hold tightly with two hands as the car approached. He walked him timidly and somewhat cautiously, taking great care to follow the instructions. As we walked him days later, Rass declared, “I feel way more confident walking Butler than I did a week ago.” Almost to prove his point, he coaxed, “Hey Butler, wanna run?” and they took off up the road.

One night as we fell asleep Rass confided, “I wish we could live here. Grandma has a well. She has Butler. She lives in the country. It’s old-fashioned.”

“Yep,” I agreed.

A couple nights later my mom asked 4-year-old Bro what his favorite part of the day was.

“Playing with Butler. Like everyday,” he replied.

As we packed our belongings yesterday afternoon, Bro gathered up some acorns and tucked them into his Spider Man backpack. I found a couple, too, and stashed them in my pocket for the flight home.

“It’s hard to say goodbye to Butler,” Bro said as he hugged and kissed him.

Again, I agreed.

As summer draws to a close, and we unpack and check-off the school supply list, we carry fresh new memories of California. The boys got to experience the beauty and “old-fashioned” simplicity of the place I still fondly — and thankfully — think of as home.

And the total blessing?

After this trip, I think they’ve come to love it almost as much as I do.

Whistler: Everything Old Is New Again

I haven’t ridden a mountain bike since my pre-kid days. Sure, I’ve tooled around the neighborhood on occasion, following a bunch of elementary school kids around. But riding on a trail, with dirt, is not something I’ve done in eons. My husband Mo and I used to ride the trails together in Whistler, sometimes with friends, enjoying the beauty of the surroundings. Whistler, BC. is, quite simply, Creation at its finest. This year, due in large part to our 10-year-old’s urgings, we decided to rent mountain bikes to explore, sightsee and trail ride. We set off Monday with my 4-year-old nestled in a “Chariot” trailer behind Mo’s bike, happily admiring the view, clinging to a bottle of water and a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos.

We headed up the dirt trail, bouncing over rocks, past Lost Lake, continuing toward Green Lake. Along the way, we stopped to look at sunbathers on a dock, a float plane taking off, Canadian geese in Canada. Initially, I hollered some dorky mom warnings and instructions to my son, things like: “it’s steep up here…steep grade….”; “you can always call out ‘on your left’ when you pass someone”; and “if your grip falls off, you have to go back and pick it up. It’s a rental.”

But as we continued to ride, I soon found myself growing quieter and quieter. The more I pedaled, the more I seemed to shed my mom skin. In fact, the farther we went, venturing along the dirt and paved paths that I used to ride in those long-ago, near-forgotten, pre-kid days, I found myself relaxing more and more, soaking in the scenery and remembering how much I loved riding there. I took it all in. The wind in my face. The sting of the dust in my eyes. The purr of the bike. The bursts of purple and white wildflowers. The real-life lily pads covering the River of Golden Dreams. We passed homes where we vacationed with friends. We stopped for a break at Meadow Park, then again at Alta Lake.

My goal for the year had been to try something new every month. Truthfully, I have not been very successful in accomplishing that.

But I realized Monday on that two-hour ride along the lakes, across the streams and around the mountains, that sometimes getting back to doing old things we love can be just as fulfilling as trying new things. It stirs things up, brings things to the surface, and reminds us of who we are – and who we were.

It was an inspiring, energizing ride: as I got to rediscover and return to some places and things that I loved, I also got to admire the view up ahead – my 10-year-old discovering them.